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Hesperia City Hall Animal Control Meeting; “The World is Watching”

HESPERIA-( A group of approximately 60 members of the public, including several media outlets, attended the emergency city hall meeting at the Hesperia City Hall building on Monday evening. The meeting was called to address the dog dragging video posted to the Victor Valley News group sister group, Victor Valley Pets. The approximately, hour and a half long meeting with 18 passionate public speakers brought tears to the eyes of speakers as well as some coming only to view the meeting.

Community rescues both private and 501(c)3 came forward to speak on behalf of the other rescue personnel who in their words, were afraid to speak out due to fear of having their ability to save animals being taken from them by the shelter staff.

Stephanie Lonsdale, an animal advocate that is known in the community for speaking up for the well-being of animals mentioned that the Hesperia Animal Shelter currently has a 70% kill rate. The 70% kill rate equals 7 out of 10 animals entering the shelter being euthanized rather than reunited or adopted. “The shelters do not utilize the free sites that are available to them to place these animals,” said Lonsdale.

Although the meeting was called to bring attention to the video, many other shelter issues came up in hopes that the city would hear the public’s concerns and work toward change.  Kenny Woodington, with the German Shepherd rescue of the High Desert said, “I would not sign the rescue agreement, that impedes rescues ability to work together”. Several brought up a section in the agreement stating that any rescue can have their ability to come rescue animals revoked if they created a “bad public image” of the shelter on social media.

Passion on both sides was expressed, three of the eighteen speakers for the shelter and against calling what appeared to be mistreatment of the animal abuse. “I believe it was misjudgment, not abuse. Ideally the dog would not be there or the dog would have been socialized,” said Lisa Wilson.

One after another, those who considered themselves rescuers, advocates and just the regular public came forward to be the voice of those who were unable to make it due to the implied threat with the shelter-rescue contract. Others came to shed light on situations they believed were of importance, creating a voice for the animals that they are attempting to save.

“Image, this is not about the city image, it is about the animals. Leonard has a beautiful German Shepherd, would you pull your animal by the neck?” said Ms. Jones as she pointed to Council member Leonard.  Bill Holland, I think you have a dog, you would not do that to your dog.”

Most expressed their deep concern for the well-being of the animals, expressing need for solidarity with the city of Hesperia and the Hesperia animal shelter.

“You can look at this in one of two ways, you are either being handed a rotten egg or a golden egg. This is your opportunity to show the city that you are not complacent and that you will not allow this behavior. We are not even angry, we are sad. We will be watching, everyone is watching right now, I beg you to protect your image,” said Ms. Davis.

Several called for more stringent measures such as firing the workers, or even prosecution of those involved was called for by one of the 18 passionate speakers. The coverage has now got the media attention of other cities, counties, states and even other countries.

Of all the speakers, the most touching, bringing tears to the speaker as well as, much of the crowd was the dog’s owner, Tracie Carpenter.

“I don’t have fancy things to tell you, like a lot of the people here. I am not going to use crazy big words or rescue terminology. I am here on behalf of Mia, who is my dog.  She is not a 60 pound dog that can not be carried, she is 47 pounds. She is not unsociable, she is a beautiful girl and very lovable, she was scared, the floor was slippery,” said Carpenter with her voice cracking due to her emotions on the treatment of her dog.

“She was in the shelter for just over 24 hours and I have no idea how the rest of her stay was there. If it is going to happen to a dog that belongs to somebody, that is loved, that has a good home, that has someone to care for them, it can also happen to the ones that have no one to speak for them, the dogs that are being euthanized, the ones that are being put to sleep, the ones you don’t hear anything about, the ones who do not have anyone to come here and stand before you gentlemen to explain that they do not have any behavioral issues, it was a good dog, she is a wonderful dog.”

Closed session followed with Paul Russ speaking mentioning his love for animals. He spoke about cameras being implemented into the shelter facility and would like to look into a new facility.

“The whole thing is disturbing, but I can not talk about it because of the investigation,” said Russ.

Russ then referred a question to the city attorney asking about the legality of the shelter contract for the rescues, which included possible revocation of their ability to help place shelter animals if they speak out against the shelter in any way. “This might not be satisfactory, I was just made aware of this policy today so we are looking into it to see if it was something that should be adjusted,” said Eric Dunn, Hesperia City Attorney. Russ urged the council to consider removal of that portion of the contract calling it “Un-American”.

Mayor Pro Tem Holland spoke, mentioning being the owner of two 11-year-old Pit Bull siblings. “My wife is the female version of Dr. Dolittle, if we could have elephants, we would have an elephant. Watching it was troubling, it has not fallen on deaf ears.

The final comment came from Mayor Eric Schmidt. Schmidt cleared up the public misconception of him being an animal hater.  He shared that the reason for him not having a pet is simply that he has a debilitating allergy to pet hair and pet dander.

“I grew up on 7th here, just down the street. My parents when moving here for some reason thought we had to have an entire farm, so I grew up with farm animals.”  Schmidt then acknowledged the rescue’s fears or retribution calling it a deep concern that would be taken up quite seriously saying, “Where there is smoke, there is fire. We care, we do, it is unequivocal. This is a matter that we care about just like you. We are asking for your patience. We can’t do it alone, we are asking for your help in healing this problem.”

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