HESPERIA-(VVNG.com): The majority of the Victor Valley community felt outrage as a short video from the Hesperia Animal Shelter surfaced. The short video, showed a shelter employee, who has since resigned from her position, casually dragging a frightened dog down a hallway by a leash. Animal right activists, as well as those who just have respect for animals spoke out in outrage. Although some of the actions and comments were extreme, many fought through proper means to work with the city for a possible resolution to the situation.
Most were saddened by how the dog, later identified as Mia, was treated during her animal control required spay. Hundreds reached out to the city officials causing them to set up a February 23rd public meeting. The meeting was handled by the well-spoken city officials who promised that they were taking the issue seriously and there was an “investigation” by a third-party being conducted.
Fast forwarding two weeks from the investigation promised, Shelter Supervisor Cheryl Lewis, who witnessed the dog dragging with no reaction to it, is still employed at the shelter. When asked, the city officials confirmed that the shelter employees are represented by a union, but does that make them exempt to termination for what appeared to be mistreatment of animals?
Victor Valley News reporters reached out to the city to request information as far as the outcome of the third-party investigation. The reply was one that has typically received by those requesting an update, one sounding as though it was prepared to stomp out the fire created by the video leaving just enough smoke needed to obscure the facts.
What are they hiding? Based on responses from numerous Hesperia residents, the animal control officers in the city of Hesperia, rather than providing a stable, safe environment for people and animals to live peacefully together have according to residents, become a tool some use to harass and an organization in the business of killing adoptable animals. “The Police Dept and AC are 2 of the biggest revenue sources for cities and counties. It’s about the money and violating our civil rights.” said animal advocate Stephanie Lonsdale.
Of course, not all feel this way, and even many who do will not admit publicly to it in fear of losing the ability as rescues to pull adoptable pets from the shelters. The Hesperia shelter has only a 30% success rate at adopting out adoptable pets, meaning 7 out of 10 that go into the shelter leave in a dumpster after being euthanized. Euthanization is the most human way to reduce the number of animals in shelters, if all were kept there would be crowding causing an increase of emotional distress on the animals and a severe financial strain on the shelters. Total “no kill” status most likely will never be achieved, but with responsible pet owners spaying, neutering and keeping their pets safely in their homes or yards the numbers can decrease.
If pets licensed, kept in our yards and cared for then they should be safe, right? In a recent video of a Hesperia resident what was shown was much different. At the time of arrival the residents dog was nowhere to be seen, but the animal control officer provided a photo of the dog in the yard on the outside of the fencing. The homeowner asked for the date or proof of when the photo was taken since she has worked with animal control making improvements to the property to keep her dog contained. The officer quickly showed her the photo and said that she must turn her dog in the following morning to the shelter.
When there are so many dogs loose on the street, most would think there are better uses for animal control officer efforts. Is going to collect dogs that are in the yards that may have been in the yard and outside of the fenced area beneficial to anyone? The dog, who has a home would be considered a dog surrendered to the shelter. The dog, being an “owner surrender” would be allowed to be euthanized immediately. The resident is left to wonder if this was yet another case of retaliation by what she describes as a disgruntled neighbor, Adelanto Animal Control Officer Pedro Alvalos. According to the resident, Alvalos has made it his mission to use county and city services to harass the family with several unfounded claims.
The resident believes that Animal Control Officer Jerry Saunders, is friends with Alvalos. In the video, the officer mentions that the dog is not on a leash while the homeowner asks to see a date stamp or proof that the dog is unattended at the time the photo was taken. “Sanders being the great detective he is, tried to cite my dogs for being loose before they were even born! That’s right he claimed they were reported out in November 2013 and it was later proven they weren’t even born yet.” said the dog owner who goes by Valentina Jay on Facebook.
Although some residents stand behind city officials saying all of these actions are right and nothing we should be concerned about, the city themselves recognized the shelter procedures were not demonstrated in the now infamous, dog dragging video.
Lonsdale as well as others who rescue animals have had numerous disagreements with the animal control and shelter staff. One that has been very upsetting to rescues it that those in the past that have spoken out about animal control or shelter issues have been blacklisted from saving animals from the possible doom that is reality for 7 of the 10 animals entering the shelter doors. Others have expressed frustration with not being able to photograph those animals in the shelter in order to promote adoption of the shelter animals.
On February 24th the City Manager’s Office, who runs the Hesperia Animal Shelter Facebook page posted, “The City will do everything in its power to ensure a timely investigation. Based on the findings of this investigation, appropriate action will be taken.” Still two weeks later, when asked for a follow-up, Victor Valley News Reporters received the following in an email on Monday, March 9th from the city of Hesperia Public Information Officer, Rachel Molina:
“The investigation is ongoing and has not been completed. We do not have an estimated completion
date for the investigation. To ensure that all animals in the shelter receive the proper care, staff from City Hall went to the shelter immediately upon learning of the video to reinforce proper care procedures will all staff members. The City cannot confirm the employment status of any of the staff members in the video.
Thank you for reaching out to follow-up on this issue. The City remains committed to the proper care of all of the pets in our facility and are working to restore public faith in the shelter.”
The email sounds much like what was posted on the Hesperia Animal Shelter Facebook page over two weeks ago, causing many to wonder if there is in fact any investigating going on or if this too is expected to be forgotten.