City pound declared a disgrace; chief animal-control officer suspended

The Globe reports on the appalling conditions inside the city animal shelter in Roslindale, uncovered by the Animal Rescue League and Joyce Linehan, Mayor Walsh's policy director and herself a well known dog owner.



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      Staff problems

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      I'm not always comfortable calling for the firing of mid- to low-level employees in cases of negligence and malfeasance, but I feel like this is one of those times when you think: how can you work there, even in the most menial position, and not realize what's happening is wrong? How can you continue to see those animals in those conditions and not do anything to alleviate the problem?

      I feel like either all of the staff need to go, or if we don't want people out of jobs, then at least be subject to incredibly closely monitored retraining.

      And maybe a few hours in a dirty kennel, just for laughs.


      Because complaints = lost job

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      If the mid level staff people complain they face loosing their jobs. If they complain anonymously there is no reason to expect a higher level manager in city hall to listen. If they add their name to the complain then they face the possibility of being fired.

      I work in a place where mediocrity is the goal. Managers talk about efficiency, excellence, etc. but in practice prefer mediocre performance so long as a nominal level of performance is provided. Staff say that better can be done but the managers, seemingly slaves to the Peter Principle, prefer to keep things as they are. I think it comes down to the idea that it is better to have mild dissatisfaction that permits easier control of the organization than to empower people to take greater control of their jobs - diminishing the control of managers.

      This might be the case here. The lower level staff do the best they can but can't do more because their managers don't want them to do more. The higher levels of city government don't care because animal control is not politically important, has little constituency and does not register on the radar of the politicians who have supposedly led the city for the past several years.

      In the past couple of years now we have had a scandal concerning regulation of the cab industry, a scandal concerning regulation of large rental housing especially where students are concerned and now a scandal about gross conditions in a city kennel. There is of course the unending controversy of the BRA as well (see the Globe article concerning Yawkey Way). Do these represent the necessary underside of a city doing well? Or are they areas of city governance that the previous administration decided were not important?


      Bureaucratic Inertia

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      I totally get that, I've worked in (and against) bureaucracies and elected officials' priorities here in Boston, I understand how it happens on a systemic level and think that it's a valid point. And, in fact, an excellent argument for worker-run workplaces. Management is a self-sustaining perpetual-unnecessity machine.

      However, on a personal individual level, what I'm having trouble wrapping my little brain around is how a person can be there, day in, day out, and not do anything - no matter how small - to make things a little bit better. Management might not want to request necessary funds or demand hygienic, humane practices, but that shouldn't (I'd like to think) stop the individual worker from keeping proper records, moving the animals to clean their cells (not "kennels," let's call them what they are), and doing other things that don't require either supervisor approval or additional materials to which they don't have access.

      Sure, management apathy engenders staff apathy, but it's one thing to be negligent in, say, filing public records, but an incomplete file can't look back at you.
      It seems so much more unbelievable when they had the suffering products of their apathy literally looking them in the eyes and howling in their ears every day.

      That's why I tend to think, hey, they just might not be fit to care for animals, ever.


      City scandals

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      There should probably be more scandals related to how city agencies and departments function (or don't function). I personally would love to give an earful to anyone who would listen about the extremely questionable ethics and totally wasteful practices at our local housing authority under the current administration, but I'm just one of those many government employees who can't say anything without losing my job (and destroying my career in the process).


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      The worst looking animals come in. Nobody wants them. You have to kill them to make room for the next bedraggled mess.

      It desensitizes you.


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      I'm surprised somehow that there hadn't been more coordination between the big Boston rescues and the AC facility. I'm sure they're understaffed and don't have volunteers, donations, etc. some of this sounds a little confusing--I mean, I've been at the shelter at Angell when every dog is losing its mind barking. The animals in Roslindale aren't all necessarily adoptable or in good shape, mentally or physically and I'm sure that they're stressed. That said the conditions sound wretched-- really hope something changes here.

      Rescues have limited means

      They generally operate on volunteers and grants, and rely on public facilities to intake and quarantine animals (and, sadly, euthanize those who are beyond help).

      That said, the city should coordinate closely with rescue organizations and networks to move animals out of these facilities and into foster homes and adoption centers as efficiently as possible. The city could also help fund the mobile units like the Catmobile that spay and neuter ferals in trap-neuter-release programs and offer low cost alterations to city pet owners in convenient locations.


      Good points

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      And I totally agree about spay/neuter programs, especially for ferals (one of my cats was a rescued and "reformed" former feral).

      AKA "friendly feral" or "feral fraud"

      My Ffffiona was one, too. She turned up at a feral feeding station, heavily pregnant, and friendly to the humans.

      To this day she gets very excited when somebody brings rubbermaid bins into to the house.


      Good Ideas

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      And yes many of these places run on shoe string budgets. I, myself, donate my technical ability and server space to a humane society in NH for their website and they appreciate every bit of help they can get.

      It would be nice to see the city close its own pound and 'outsource' to one of the other shelters out there. That $$ that the city would give would help the ARL and other orgs a long way.

      And wholeheartedly agree with trap, fix, and release programs. It's so needed around here.

      There's definitely a need.

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      Strays, dogs that are confiscated like these, dogs who are in some kind of limbo and may not be adoptable. Sadly you can't just put every dog up for adoption--a lot come in neglected and/or abused, with serious health or behavior issues. Some are going to find their original owners; many will have to be PTS. And even for the adoptable ones, a lot of time and work goes into getting a dog ready to be safely adopted, including spay and neuter, which is why it makes me crazy when people complain about "high" adoption fees at shelters--they have no idea.

      I don't understand how things

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      I don't understand how things get so bad. You mean to tell me that staff there observe the conditions and the suffering and never say anything? How do people sleep at night?

      I don't have the heart to work in rescue, I admit it. I don't have the emotional strength to deal with animal suffering (or children). Those that do, do God's work and I have so much respect for what they do and what they deal with. I am forever grateful to rescue workers, my current dog is a rescue.

      But, I don't understand how a human being, the administrator, allowed this to happen.
      To me there's no excuse and at least the top management needs to be fired, I don't care that they lose their jobs - doesn't bother me in the least.


      Breaks my heart

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      This breaks my heart... I unfortunately had to turn over 2 pit bull puppies I found abandoned and roaming the street back in November, and they were sent to the City Shelter. Now I feel sick thinking that a place which was supposed to keep them safe and cared for may have potentially made their suffering worse.

      While re-allocating animals to other rescue organizations is a good idea in theory, unfortunately some rescues refuse to take animals which they consider "unadoptable". I know pitbulls are controversial and that is a whole separate issue which I hope doesn't divert away from the main point of my message. But these rescues do sometimes refuse to take other types of dogs (or cats) if they are too old or require a lot of care. Therefore, some animals just end up defaulting to the City Shelter, which has to take in all animals surrendered to it.

      The ARL is one of the more reputable rescues in the area, but they have huge constraints on their space and resources. Perhaps allocating some of the City's animal control funds to allow for another organization to oversee the City Shelter (ARL or other) and essentially use it as an extension of their space would be a good solution.

      Whatever they end up doing with the City Shelter, I hope this situation improves quickly for all of the animals which are there.

      Locked In A Cage For More Than Twenty Years?!!

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      One of the saddest items mentioned in the story is the dog, Camilla, who has been locked up at the "shelter" since 2011, while abuse charged against her former owner drag through the courts.

      It's horrifying that an innocent dog gets incarcerated for such a long time, while her abusers run free.


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      What year do you think it is?

      Has anyone adopted from the City pound?

      I'm curious - several years ago when I was looking to adopt a dog, I tried the city route. I was told they had no adoptable candidates and to always call and find out if there were any dogs up for placement before planning a visit. I ended up getting a rescue dog through an organization that brings southern dogs north. I adore my mutt, but if there were actually bunches of dogs languishing in that shit hole here in the city. . .ugh, it makes me ill.

      Has anyone successfully adopted from the city pound?

      Got my cat there last Sept

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      When Angell didn't have a cat that my family could agree on we stopped at the city pound and found a great cat.

      It was loud in there with some little dogs barking continuously. The staff were conscientious but not the brightest bulbs. It seemed like the depressing place that a cliche "dog pound" would be. A bit smelly. A bit run down. However, I would NOT say that it seemed like the animals were being mistreated or not being taken care of. I think some new management and a little more money would do a world of good to improve this place.


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      are a lot more resilient to certain kinds of neglect than dogs. Cats generally aren't permanently damaged by living in a tiny cage with a tiny littlerbox minimal attention. A dog, however, under that same treatment is likely to start developing antisocial behaviors over time that make the dog less and less adoptable due to anxiety and aggression.

      Um, no

      Cats generally aren't permanently damaged by living in a tiny cage with a tiny littlerbox minimal attention.

      Cats are generally smaller than dogs, and their version of antisocial behavior is to not interact with humans at all.

      That doesn't mean that cats and their ability to live comfortably in a human household aren't damaged by such treatment. My SIL can fill you in on a cat she took in from a hoarding situation that had been treated in such a way. It was a good year before the cat would come out to meet her when she came down to feed it.


      Also, a cat's usual reaction

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      to a consistently dirty litter box is to no longer use it, but to urinate and defecate anywhere they feel like instead. A friend of mine who was less than diligent about litter box cleanings found this out the hard way, and also discovered it's very hard to wean a cat off this habit once they've adopted it.

      I Don't Know, My Mother Trained Me When I Was Just A Baby

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      However, I trained Henry and his brother, Gunther, when they were tiny kittens. They were so small that they used a couple of boxes as steps to climb up on to the toilet:
      Kittens as well as older cats can learn to use the toilet, though some may take longer to master it than others. Henry and Gunther learned by using the Litter Kwitter system. It's an excellent product, but there are other do-it-yourself training methods, perhaps most famously described by the late Jazz musician, Charles Mingus.

      The Litter Kwitter accomplishes the same thing as Charles' cardboard boxes; it's just more convenient; but his technique of understanding the cat's psychology through the process is excellent, and very helpful to read.

      It might take weeks; it might take months; but once it finally clicks in with your cat, you've got it made! Of course it does take a fair amount of patience, not so much with your cat as with yourself. Don't think about any specific length of time; as Charles Mingus explains, the biggest mistake you can make is to rush your cat before it's ready for the next training step.

      When you eventually succeed however, the payoffs are manifold; it's a rewarding experience for you and wonderful gift to give your cat! If ever someday I was unable to care for Henry, it might be easier for a perfectly toilet-trained cat to find another loving home.

      Strange side effect of stray adoption

      My cat taught herself to do this!

      We were constantly blaming one another for unflushed leavings ... until we were all in one room and one of our number headed for the can and heard somebody using it.

      Why not - in human houses, that's where the humans leave theirs!

      BTW, Elmer: does Henry try to "bury" his leavings after he uses the toilet? Ffffiona does, and it is pretty hillarious!

      (she was about two years old when she figured this out)

      Glad to hear that

      That makes me feel a little bit better. Maybe they really did have a dry spell for dogs that coincided with the time I was looking.

      Also glad to hear it wasn't so awful when you saw it. Maybe this is a new thing and not a long-term issue.

      Any adoptable pets are on Petfinder

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      When I was monitoring the 2 puppies which were there last fall, I was told that any adoptable pets at the City Shelter were put on PetFinder. The 2 pitbull puppies were eventually adopted (I'm hoping, unless the Petfinder website and the staff lied to me! Ugh).

      There were only about 5-7 animals during the 2-3 weeks I checked up which were adoptable at any time. So if the article is true and there were dozens of animals there last week, then that's a pretty small percentage.

      Dog Pound

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      I have known Mark Giannangelo for many years and have worked on many dog issues with him. this is a disgrace what they are doing to him. If they wanted to fire him then go ahead but do not destroy someone reputation. He has served the city and animals well over the years. People need to wake up and see what is really going on. Look higher up the chain of command.. Why not the pound manager? shouldn't he or she have done something...this is personal...


      Mark Giannangelo

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      It's not Mark, it's the dwerbs who work there. there was only one animal tech that was worth her salt and that was Amanda. The rest were two-watt bulbs who were bored and constantly smoking or playing on their mobile phones. Mark had very little to work with.