A video is quickly going viral today showing a Hesperia Animal Control employee casually dragging a dog behind her while Cheryl Lewis, the City’s Animal Control Supervisor – Shelter Operations, and a third employee look on. The incident took place last week but is just now making its way around social media.
The incident highlights the reason behind the ongoing battle between animal welfare advocates and Hesperia Animal Shelter staff. City of Hesperia officials have refused to allow volunteers into the shelter to videotape and photograph the animals to network them.
Lewis addresses the issue in this email from Nov. 5, 2013:
Thank you for taking an interest in wanting to network our animals. However, it isn’t necessary. The Shelter staff contacts Rescue Groups on a daily basis. We also post all animals weekly on the City’s website: www.cityofhesperia.us under the Animal Control Department.
We also post our adoptable animals on “Adopt A Pet” website, which links to other Pet Adoption sites. In addition, we post pictures of adoptable animals in the Daily Press, Hesperia Star (every Tuesday), and host “Pet of the Week” on Y102 every Tuesday.
In the past, we had numerous problems when people (with good intentions) begin to post our animals on Facebook and other websites. Therefore, we prefer to only use Shelter staff to post our animals, including the Hesperia Animal Shelter Facebook page.
The city’s own statistics for the period of 2013/2014 states that 4,000 of the 7,100 animals processed were euthanized. The city apparently finds that acceptable.
Animal advocates next appealed to Lewis’ supervisor, Scott Priester, Director of Development Services. Here is his response:
The City appreciates your desire to assist in improving adoptions from the Animal Shelter. I understand Cheryl Lewis, the City’s Animal Control Supervisor – Shelter Operations has corresponded with you on this request since last November. Her comment (which you note below) is correct. We agree with your desire to be open and transparent, and our staff are committed to being as effective as possible, utilizing as many tools as we can, including newspaper ads, and Pet of the Week airtime on the local radio stations to adopt animals.
The adoption and euthanization rates are readily available in the City’s Budget for Animal Control. Further, a number of years ago the City established procedures for working with outside parties, specifically legitimate Rescue Groups.
At this time we have working relationships with approximately 100 Rescue Groups, who have the ability to take and post photographs. Because of problems with keeping postings up-to-date, we have experienced on more than one occasion where the City is contacted on a specific animal, which has long-since left the Shelter. As a result, most do not exercise that option and instead rely on daily communications with our animal control technician staff. Nevertheless, we believe the process works better than not allowing it.
But Priester did not end there. He went on to say:
Based on the rescue groups’ activities, the City has the right to revoke any such privileges if they or anyone they network with portrays a “bad Public image” of the City and/or Animal Control through emails, texting, Facebook, twitter, or any other blogs, and/or the Internet. Posting phrases like “Stop the killing,” or referencing that a neighboring Town’s policy, “is to kill as many shelter animals as possible” is inflammatory and counter-productive to Animal Control’s shelter traffic efforts when it portrays a bad public image on shelters as a whole. Consequently, I stand by my staff’s position at this time.
That is among the real reasons why the city will not allow volunteers in to network the animals through social media. They are afraid their dirty secrets will be exposed on social media. And they clearly have dirty secrets as evidenced by the video.
If you would like to express your concern about this situation, here is the contact information for the Hesperia City Council and Hesperia City Manager:
Eric Schmidt, Mayor: email email@example.com
Bill Holland, Mayor Pro Tem: email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Russell “Russ” Blewett, Council Member: email email@example.com
Mike Leonard, Council Member: email firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Russ, Council Member: email email@example.com
Mike Podegracz: (760) 947-1025