I am publishing an article that I originally wrote on No Kill Houston’s blog site before I started writing for hornface.com. I am publishing the story here because this week marks the 1 year anniversary since the death of the poor dog involved in this story. Unfortunately, this story is still very relevant because the people involved still work at BARC and/or the City of Houston. David Atencio still works as BARC’s shelter director and Alfred Moran still works as the Director of the ARA Dept (which is over BARC).
The only thing that changed in the last year is that rescuers who tried to save this dog were banned from BARC and an employee was fired after filing a complaint alleging animal cruelty regarding this dog’s treatment at BARC and record tampering.
We do have an answer to some of the questions posed one year ago (see below). The answer is that instead of doing what was in the best interest of this poor dog, BARC leaders and the ARA Dept intended to turn her into a publicity stunt i.e. “Look what we did for this dog, when we could have just killed her like all the others.” What they didn’t anticipate was the Army of Compassion that would come to Keiko’s rescue. Sadly, when the Army of Compassion showed up, BARC leaders and the ARA Dept circled the wagons and fought them, banned them and fired them instead of embracing their help… and yet another animal died needlessly at BARC.
Keiko is the “poster child” for our American animal shelter system. A system where institutionalized animal cruelty and needless and preventable deaths are ignored and even supported by the shelter leaders. And the elected officials who are responsible for hiring the shelter directors in the first place, simply look the other way.
Kieko, a young dog, was brought to BARC on Monday, 3/15/10. It was obvious that she had suffered severe head/eye injuries (see slideshow). BARC’s vet reportedly told volunteers that it appeared that the dog had been beaten with a 2×4. (Note: we don’t know what actually caused her injuries).
Despite Keiko’s obviously severe injuries, BARC leaders decided that she should wait at BARC until Friday when her stray hold period would expire. At that point she would “officially belong to BARC” and they would remove her eyes. On Friday morning, BARC vet staff operated on Keiko. This was done even though BARC has no diagnostic tools to properly evaluate the extent of Keiko’s injuries, nor do they have the proper surgical equipment for this type of surgery.
If BARC’s services had been the only option available for Keiko, BARC might have been considered a hero for attempting to save this animal.
However, this is far from the truth.
Early that week, rescuers begged to be allowed to take Keiko from BARC to a specialist where she could get the immediate specialized care that she desperately needed. This would have been at no cost to BARC i.e. taxpayers. BARC repeatedly refused these offers.
After hearing of BARC’s refusal, the community bombarded BARC and the city of Houston with requests that Keiko be released to see a specialist. BARC did not release Keiko to rescue, but on Thursday, BARC allegedly took Keiko to a specialist who allegedly recommended that her eyes should be removed. That day, BARC representative, Chris Newport told Fox 26 that the specialist had offered to perform Keiko’s surgery free of charge. This offer was refused and Keiko was instead taken back to BARC where BARC staff proceeded to operate on her.
BARC is a clinic of “last resort” i.e. when there are no other options available. (See a description and pictures in Nathan Winograd’s assessment report of BARC) BARC staff has only the most basic diagnostic tools at their disposal; they have no x-ray machines and certainly nothing more sophisticated such as an MRI or CT scanner; their microscopes are in need of repair; their surgical equipment is geared towards spays/neuters only; they do not have the ability to run complete blood panels; many of the spays / neuters are done in a former closet. In addition, after delicate surgery such as this, Keiko would have required overnight, medically monitored, care. BARC cannot not provide this. Yet, BARC still proceeded with the surgery to remove Keiko’s eyes and soon after she died.
There are a number of troubling questions:
1) BARC is not equipped to diagnose nor treat this type of severe injury. Why didn’t BARC immediately call on rescuers on Monday, 3/15/10 when Keiko came in with severe injuries? They call on rescuers for animals with much less severe injuries such as broken bones, ringworm and upper respiratory infections. Why not this dog?
2) Starting on Tuesday 3/16/10, rescuers began asking to be allowed to pull Keiko so that they could take her to a specialist who has the proper diagnostic equipment and proper equipment to perform sensitive surgeries. Why did David Atencio and Dr. Mendelsohn repeatedly refuse these offers throughout the week?
3) Why did Keiko wait 3 1/2 days before BARC attempted to properly diagnose her injuries at a specialist’s office who had the appropriate equipment? BARC’s spokesperson said it wasn’t safe to move her until Thursday, but in an earlier statement he said that she was doing fine and rolling over for belly rubs. If she was well enough to roll over for belly rubs, why wouldn’t she be well enough to ride in a car to a vet, especially since it was clear that this was an emergency situation?
4) BARC is well known to have rampant diseases. Did BARC personnel think that Keiko was in a healthier environment waiting in a BARC kennel rather than in a private vet’s office?
5) BARC is severely underfunded. If a rescue group was willing to take to take Keiko and have her treated by an eye specialist, at no cost to taxpayers, why did David Atencio continue to refuse?
6) Why did BARC spend so much money on this severely injured dog when free, and much better alternatives, were available?
7) In emergencies, other animals have been released from BARC before the stray hold period was up. BARC’s own policy and procedure manual states clearly that animals with certain medical conditions such as ringworm and upper respiratory infections can be released before the stray hold period has expired. Why wasn’t this dog, with far more severe injuries, released when care was offered?
8 ) Of the 6 vets that the city touts as examining Keiko, 4 were BARC vets. None of these four vets would have had access to proper diagnostic equipment to adequately diagnose an injury such as Keiko’s, or the equipment to operate on her. Why did they proceed when they clearly did not have the equipment to adequately care for Keiko?
9) If the city claims that BARC does have appropriate equipment to properly diagnose injuries such as Keiko’s, we would like to know which tests were done by the any of the 4 BARC vets on 03/15/10 or later that allowed them to determine and diagnose that Keiko’s eyes should be removed and that she did not have a brain injury that might require additional treatment? X-rays? MRI? CT Scan? Blood work?
10) What tests were done by both of the outside vets that allowed them to determine and diagnose that Keiko’s eyes should be removed and that she did not have a brain injury that might require additional treatment? X-rays? MRI? CT Scan? Blood work?
11) According to media reports, the specialist who examined Keiko on Thursday 3/18/10 offered to do the surgery for free? Why was this offer refused?
12) Why was surgery performed at BARC when they had no options for medically monitored aftercare?
13) Dr. Mendelsohn was reprimanded and fined by Virginia’s Veterinary Board for the death of a dog that died during a routine spay procedure. After the fiasco concerning the discovery of disciplinary actions filed against former vet, Dr
. O, why did BARC hire yet another vet who has at least one disciplinary action on her record?
14) Did the city do any type of background check before hiring Dr. Mendelsohn or any of the other vets? If so, we would like to know what types of checks were performed?
Had Keiko been released to rescue who could take her to a specialist the minute she entered BARC, she might have lived. A specialist might have been able to save her sight had she been treated appropriately immediately.
However, BARC’s shelter director and veterinarians (and the ARA Dept Director) utterly and stubbornly failed this dog and I believe it cost Keiko her life.
The shelter animals’ welfare should be the number one concern for the staff at BARC or any animal shelter. Everything else should come second, including egos and publicity stunts.
Clearly, BARC leadership is not concerned with the best interests of the animals. I, for one, am tired of waiting for them to stop the killing.
Please take a moment to speak out for Keiko and other animals who will have the misfortune of entering BARC. Demand leaders who will work hard to stop the killing.
Other open admission shelters across the country have stopped the killing. It is time for Houston leaders to step up and make it happen here.
Click here to sign the petition which will send a letter directly to the Mayor and city council.
If you would like to learn how every shelter can transform themselves into No Kill shelters, please join us at our Building a No Kill Community workshop on April 30th. Learn how we can stop the killing in our shelters.
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