BE the Change….
I am writing tonight to share an update on our rescue: why it’s been silent so long, where we have been and where we plan on going. I would also like to address an recent summary charge that I received, because I believe that total transparency is the only way to run a non-profit organization.
As many of you know, beginning in late October, I had a series of personal tragedies, including the death of my vivacious grand-niece, a cherished rescue friend and the failing health of my father. At that time, I posted that I planned to step away from my rescue work to spend as much time as I could with my dad. During this time, the rest of our organization was doing their best to pick up the slack, but it is an overwhelming task. I was not as available, as I usually was, and morale faltered. I was notified that the other two directors had resigned, via USPS Registered mail. While it came as no surprise that they were “on the fence”, it was still devastating – on a personal level. With only a few to pick up any slack, I named an interim board, but resigned myself to the fact that we were going to be inactive for a period of time.
Now mid-November, I went to the county treasurer’s office, over lunch, to purchase dog licenses for 2015. The clerk suggested that I get a kennel license, because I spend so much on registrations. Although I felt we were under the 26+ dogs per year limit in PA, $25.00 per year and tons less paperwork sounded great. When I got home, I ran off the paperwork that needed to be completed by the vet, and dropped it off. She signed it on November 25th.
On December 5th, when I went to put the puppies to bed, Bartholomew, my special boy, was on his blankie, but didn’t get up to share the puppy hysteria, as he normally did. When I straightened his blanket, I noticed some fecal matter underneath. I tried to pull him to his feet, but he couldn’t stand. I rushed him to Rossmoyne Emergency, transferring him to Boiling Springs the following day. The diagnosis was non-contagious meningitis, common to certain breeds. He passed away in my arms on December 9th, which is my late son’s birthday. I was inconsolable. The fundraiser that I had posted didn’t come close to the emergency vet bills and four days of inpatient care.
On December 10th, I received a call at work that my dad’s doctors were requesting a family meeting right away. He had taken a turn for the worse and life support was being discontinued. I was with him when he passed the morning of December 11th (oddly, my other late son’s birthday). When I got home from the hospital, I found a note from the dog warden taped to my door. I didn’t bother to read it, but gave it to a volunteer, asking her to please call and apologize for missing my opening inspection, explain the situation, and say that I would give them a call as soon as I was able. After the funeral, I came home and sent the dog warden an email, apologizing for missing the inspection and saying I would call, which I did.
I called on December 18th to schedule my opening inspection, only to learn that there was a possibility that I could be CHARGED! I was hysterical when they told me that I could receive a summary offense of operating an unlicensed kennel (that means 26+ dogs in a year-anywhere in the world….not just in PA). I was told they had come out because of a “complaint”, not to conduct my inspection. I thought it fairly convenient that during the alleged “push” to close down rescue networks in PA, rescues are being charged during the application process. Waiting until a rescue applied for a license, then citing them, was rather like shooting fish in a barrel, I recall thinking. I was under the impression that they would look over my paperwork during the inspection, then decide if charges were warranted. I was assured that I would “start with a clean slate”.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the mail on the 20th to find a summary ticket for operating an illegal kennel and a $200.00 fine!!
Of course, being 501c3 non-profit organization means that I agree to be governed by a board of directors, who, in turn, agree to make decisions based on the mission statement of this organization. That said, I scheduled an emergency board meeting to decide how we would respond. There was heated debate on each side, discussing the pros and cons of either plea. We agreed to adjourn and meet in person, after Christmas. I notified the magistrate’s office that I needed more time, which they agreed to give me.
On Monday, December 22nd, I had my opening inspection and, of course, passed. Our PA License number is 12470.
When I questioned the extremely opportune timing of my citation, they stated that they were responding to a complaint. I was told that they “tracked us” at 49 dogs and it didn’t matter what state they were in, PA has jurisdiction EVERYWHERE! They also shared that they were unaware of my application, which “was somewhere in the office”, unbeknownst to them, until our call. They also claimed to have gotten a call earlier in the year, but we appeared to be in compliance at that time. I completely believe everything they told me, by the way. All-in-all, I found it to be an extremely pleasant visit and learned a good deal of information that I didn’t know before. They were courteous and professional. But more importantly – they are dog people. I could easily tell that, by the way my dogs reacted to them.
Because Im-Paws-Able only uses Im-Paws-Able volunteers to transport, there is no way for anyone, outside our organization, to know if the dogs were brought to a PA foster, or a MD foster, or the moon, how many there are, or when they were pulled. If we didn’t share the information, how could they know for certain which dogs were in the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth and which weren’t?
While responding to the charges seemed like a “givens”, there were other things to consider:
– In responding to the charges, what amount of money would be taken from the mouths of the dogs? How many more would die while we paid for an attorney? If our goal is to do what is best for the dogs, how could that be a consideration? Since nobody was fundraising, we were already in a precarious position, financially. It seemed a better idea to try and get back on our feet.
– What sort of retribution would we receive during future inspections? Because the law states that holding a PA Kennel License means that I agree to warrant-less searches of my home on demand, AND have to make the dogs available for inspection at any time, and I work, failing me will be a piece of cake. I also noted that their annual report lists citations and their clearance rates. That makes each warden personally responsible for someone who is found not guilty. Like a permanent black mark on their record.
If the charges stand…..who cares, really? I was charged in MY name, not the rescue’s name. I have never been in any trouble with the law. I hate it, but considering which course of action will most benefit the dogs, my personal charges are fairly negligible. I’m just annoyed because some Facebook cronies who refuse to come see what is done IN PERSON – WHEN PERSONALLY INVITED – are clearly putting enough pressure on the Department of Agriculture, mid-administration, to have them step up enforcement.
– What sort of time would we, as an organization, spend responding to this? What sort of negative energy would be surrounding this? How many walks, games of ball, or quiet times just hanging out, would be sacrificed? We have two dogs here, who are terminally ill. I don’t want to miss one minute we could have spent together on such negativity. We are in the midst of creating several different programs and completely reorganizing….wouldn’t our energy be better spent on doing good and reorganizing?
The Board met again to discuss this. When the time for a vote came, I abstained, because I honestly felt I could not make an impartial decision. I have just been through the most devastating two months of my life. I took the charges VERY personally. But, truth be told, I know, IN MY HEART, that the dogs come first and foremost with me. I trust that anyone who knows me, knows this, as well. That’s all I really care about.
I pled guilty via mail on Friday.
Tonight, I located the source of the discontent on Facebook. I wasn’t surprised to learn that it was someone with whom I had freely confided, regarding another issue. People who are doing the right thing, are free to tell the truth, because there’s nothing to hide. No matter what the Facebook Rescue police say, any law that requires a VOLUNTEER to relinquish their Fourth Amendment rights, be sanctioned, criminally, and establishes rules that are subjective and cumbersome to comply with, is problematic. Any law FOR the dogs that may impinge on their ability to saved, instead, setting up a plethora of regulations, benefits the STATE – NOT the dogs and should be changed.
Finally, Facebook vigilantism doesn’t benefit the dogs…..it forces good people to stop helping them, and tricks caring people into thinking that such advocacy is on the side of good. It kills dogs. It forces those who mean them ill, far underground, so we can’t see them. It creates the suspicion, in the hearts of donors, that all rescuers are scammers. It robs people of the chance to make their lives whole. It capriciously squanders the resources of dog law wardens, who need to be out there fighting BESIDE rescuers…..not establishing adversarial relationships, borne of kneejerk enforcement policy change, that acquiesces to the fancy of Facebook.
If those who are judging rescuers would just get out of their Facebook world, and step into mine, they would stop. But they won’t – because my world hurts! I never finish. I see the ugliness that others can turn away from. My world’s not fair. It’s often physically painful. I have to watch beings that I have come to love, endure pain. Blame doesn’t work here, because I AM the end of the road for many. Nobody comes in here and thanks me for “my good work”. I have no friends, because I can’t be a good one in return. I am “fair game” for unprovoked social media attacks by those who don’t know me, or my dogs, or what I do! And they don’t care….they have another agenda. My workday simply isn’t over when the laptop closes. I have other things to do than report Facebook profiles.
And I wouldn’t change that for the world…….
If you want to initiate change…..please do it constructively. Try to realize that what YOU are doing with a Facebook page is no different than what dog fighters and abusers do—-just on a grander scale and under the guise of “advocacy”. The results are the same- dead dogs! Don’t underestimate the determination of others to explore from hence your motivation emanates. Im-Paws-Able will reorganize and come back stronger because our mission is set in our hearts add the hearts of our supporters!
BE THE CHANGE…..
Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.