Baily’s recently reported that the PSPCA withdrew all of its charges against Wendy Willard, Master of the Murder Hollow Bassets of Philadelphia.
After more than 14 months, all 22 counts of animal cruelty charged against Murder Hollow Bassets master Wendy Willard in August of 2009 by the Pennsylvania Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) in Philadelphia County were withdrawn on October 5, 2010 in Philadelphia Municipal Court. Wendy was also found to be in complete compliance with all applicable statutes.
You may recall that on July 27, 2009, the life of Wendy Willard, a retired social studies teacher and nationally recognized Master of a pack of hounds known as Murder Hollow Bassets, changed forever. That day, using a warrant obtained following a trespass on her property, the PSPCA searched Wendy’s barn, seized 11 of 23 hounds and pressured her to sign so-called “surrender agreements” by threatening to take the other 12 dogs and subjecting her to a heavy fine if she refused.
The search and seizure was performed under the guise of enforcing the Philadelphia “limit law,” applicable only to residential dwelling units, and not a barn inhabited by dogs. However, before Wendy was charged with anything, and without notification to her, all of the hounds were spayed and neutered after their seizure. Worse still one of the hounds was killed as a result of a botched attempt at surgery during the mass spay/neuter operations performed by the PSPCA. The 10 remaining live hounds became infected with a lung virus in the PSPCA’s facility. The PSPCA then sent those 10, with medications, to an unlicensed “rescue” operation that sold them all for “adoption” before any hearing on the charges took place.
The law’s delay, high legal costs, and the passage of time have all rendered the status of the hounds taken and given for adoption to new homes moot, and have brought the case of the PSPCA versus Wendy Willard to a stalemated end.
PSPCA withdrew all of its charges, but will not be returning any of the Murder Hollow hounds. One aged hound, irrationally subjected to a pointless neutering operation succumbed on the table to the tender mercies of the protectors of animal welfare in Philadelphia. The rest of the basset hounds taken from their owner were lawlessly transferred to an unlicensed adoption facility in another state as soon as they had recovered from being neutered and were then sold to new owners for an “adoption fee” long before the right of PSPCA to do any such things had been established in a court of law.
The legal contest has dragged on for well over a year and enormous expenses have accumulated while time has passed to the point where any remedy is both impossible and impractical. The “adopted” (read: “sold”) bassets have undoubtedly over so many months become accustomed to new homes and have developed strong ties of affection to new owners. One poor basset is many months unnecessarily deceased, the victim of mindless PSPCA policy. No useful purpose would be served by uprooting the surviving stolen bassets from their new homes and lives as pets and sending them back after so long an interval to the working life of the pack hound. Their training and condition has been neglected. A quarter century of breeding efforts have been brought to nought. Former hunting hounds have been transformed into pets. There would not be a lot of point in altering their condition now.
Help is still needed however to meet Murder Hollow’s enormous legal expenses. To donate by mail, please make checks or money orders payable to Wendy Willard/Escrow Defense Account and mail your contributions to: Hound Defense Fund, 1229 Chestnut Street, #107, Philadelphia, PA 19107. To donate on line, please go to the web site, www.houndefensefund.org and follow the donation instructions provided.
On January 12th, Philadelphia Community Court Judge Joseph J. O’Neill negotiated an agreement between attorneys for Wendy Willard, Master of the Murder Hollow Bassets, and the PSPCA intended to end the litigation resulting from the latter organization’s July 27, 2009 raid on the Murder Hollow kennels in which eleven hounds were confiscated.
Last month’s settlement terms included the return of a retired house dog named Osh Kosh to Willard and an arrangement that Willard would participate in determining the permanent placement of the ten other hounds. In return for which, Willard agreed to make some repairs to the kennels and submit to unannounced inspections over the course of the next five months.
Strangely, it turns out that PSPCA was not in a position at the time to honor this agreement and also seems to have entered into the agreement in bad faith.
Five days before the trial resulting in the settlement it turns out the PSPCA could not fulfill, obviously at PSPCA’s instigation, Ms. Willard was accused by the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections of operating a commercial kennel, issued a cease and desist order, and threatened with $300 per diem fines.
The Murder Hollow Bassets are, of course, a private organized hunting pack, and not a commercial kennel at all, as the L&I department soon discovered. This particular instance of harrassment seems ironic in the light of the fact that Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue, the organization which “rescued” Murder Hollow’s hounds to the tune of $225 apiece, and processes something on the order of 200 basset hounds per annum is itself not licensed as a kennel.
PSPCA was not only unable to comply with the portion of court settlement applying to the placement of ten hounds. PSPCA also proceeded to renege on its agreement to return the 8 year old house dog Osh Kosh, demanding as a condition for the hound’s return a payment of putative costs of $3000, mostly made up of boarding fees!
In the immediate aftermath of the settlement, PSPCA also continued its propaganda campaign against Murder Hollow, releasing through its own media outlet a single photograph showing an unhappy basset with an eye problem allegedly infested with ticks.
I saw that photograph at the time, but having no personal access to Murder Hollow’s side of the story decided to avoid commenting.
My own opinion is that it is extremely easy for a photograph of this kind to be misleading. Any basset hound being dragged off on a lead by strangers is going to look mightily unhappy. Bassets have a talent for looking lugubrious when displeased. Dirty doggie photos also don’t mean much. You can get a photo of my Tazy with a face covered in dirt very easily if you happen to take it anytime after he’s been digging.
Basset hounds do acquire scratches running through the woods, and pack dogs living together pick up minor injuries sometimes in kennels. A photograph of a single dog with something wrong with its eye obviously does not prove that dog was neglected.
The lyme disease claim is clearly suggestive of deliberate fraud. Lyme disease bearing ticks are extremely common in the woods and fields hunted by organized hound packs in the Eastern United States. It would be surprising to find a beagle, or basset, or pack-following human who wouldn’t test positive for lyme disease exposure. Karen caught it last year, and I deny being guilty of cruelty to wives. Pack hounds, of course, are treated for lyme disease when they are symptomatic. Unsymptomatic lyme exposure means absolutely nothing and is exactly the kind of opportunistic phony baloney charge that a corrupt animal welfare organization would fling around to justify its own abuses.
Ticks. The particular basset in the photo seems to have several ticks on its face, and I suspect there is a story there which I don’t know. Perhaps that basset is the aged house dog which just came back dirty and tick-infested from a nice long run on the 340-acre Nature Center in which the Willard home and the Murder Hollow kennels are located.
I don’t live near Philadelphia or hunt with Murder Hollow, but I know that several of the packs I do follow rely on Ivermectin, an anti-parasite medication, which one knowlegable hound breeder assured me causes ticks simply to drop dead shortly after they ingest a little of their victim’s blood. If Murder Hollow routinely uses Ivermectin, a hound coming home with some ticks on him would be meaningless. They’d all be dead the next day.
The PSPCA’s photo is less than probative, and it looks like Murder Hollow and the PSPCA are going back to court. I expect the judge will not be pleased to learn that PSPCA entered into agreements it could not and would not fulfill.
Personally, I think wasting a post on him is a bad idea. L’aigle ne chasse pas les mouches and all that. But I think some readers might be disappointed if I did not respond, so…
Basically, Burns today simply takes the same not-very-informative Inquirer article I quoted and linked, and applies a massive sedimentary layer of subjectivity to it, creating a fantasy of his own in which a real judgment of the accuracy of PSPCA complaints was made by the judge on the basis of firm evidence, guilt established, and PSPCA vindicated.
What obviously happened is the lawyers negotiated a deal involving the return of at least one dog to Ms. Willard, and what is being referred to as PSPCA “consulting” with Ms. Willard on the placement of other dogs, which sounds a lot to me like an unarticulated deal to return dogs originating from a different organized pack to their pack of origin. In return, PSPCA gets to save face by coming back and “inspecting,” thus relieving them of culpability and confirming their legitimacy and authority.
To believe those inspections are really necessary, you have to believe that organized hunting packs with ten person staffs and dozens of active members need external supervision to make them clean their kennels, give hounds water daily, or assure veterinary care.
You have to be inclined to accept the validity of violations charged by persons in authority trained to intimidate people into surrendering some of their animals by threatening to take and euthanize all of them, who achieve submission by threatening to apply enough complaints to cause someone to lose her home.
You have to be the kind of person who sneers at other sportsmen for being overweight and aged (when you look like Pat Burns) and who ridicules organized hunting by hound packs in uniform from the superior perspective of the glorious pursuit of vermin with pick and shovel.
Mr. Burns’s mention of a “Mad Woman of Shiloh” [since corrected… ha!] was clearly an inept attempt to allude, in a defamatory comparison of a person he does not know, to Jean Giraudoux’s La Folle de Chaillot [Madwoman of Chaillot]. In that two-act play, the senile and eccentric heroine, “the Countess,” rallies her bohemian neighbors to defend their Parisian suburb against corrupt authorities and opportunists proposing to turn it into a polluted oilfield. Since the madwoman is the heroine and in the right and the authorities are malevolent and corrupt and in the wrong, perhaps Burns’s illiterate attempt at metaphor comes accidentally closer to the mark than he could possibly have realized.
Baily’s Hunting Directory available via on-line subscription is rather new. I only heard of it myself this month, so few of those following the Murder Hollow Basset affair are likely to have found the news release of December 16th announcing a trial date of January 12th.
I certainly would have preferred a more definitive conclusion, but I expect Wendy Willard and the members of the basseting community supporting her in this case were strongly motivated by the prospect of liberating some of the long-incarcerated hounds, as well as by the ten thousand dollars per month legal efforts have been costing since last August, to agree under advice of counsel to allow PSPCA a face-saving compromise outcome.
Animal-cruelty charges filed against a woman known for running a successful pack of sporting dogs have been continued until June and will be dropped if she complies with an agreement to clean and maintain her kennel in Roxborough. ...
Philadelphia Community Court Judge Joseph J. O’Neill negotiated the agreement between Willard and SPCA officers.
O’Neill said from the bench that Willard must install a drainage system, keep her property “reasonably free from feces,” repair the kennel ceiling, change standing water the dogs drink from at least once a day, and have the dogs checked for parasites.
O’Neill said the SPCA would have to consult with Willard over where to permanently place the dogs removed from the property.
“This is something that will benefit everyone,” O’Neill said. ...
“You’re entitled to have your dogs,” O’Neill said to Willard, “and she is entitled to inspect,” the judge said with a nod toward SPCA Officer Tara Loller.
On the day of the raid, Willard was accused of throwing stones at vehicles driven by SPCA and state dog officers.
O’Neill said the SPCA would make monthly, unannounced inspections to ensure that Willard was following the negotiated agreement.
Willard declined to comment, but her attorney, Charles Geffen, said the SPCA also had agreed to return to her a dog named Osh Kosh, who lived in her house.
When NYM published the first blog coverage last week on the Murder Hollow Basset raid by the PSPCA, fellow field sports blogger Pat Burns of Terrierman’s Daily Dose, went into investigative mode, took Amy Worden’s essentially PSPCA-dictated damage control press release in the Inquirer as gospel, and proceeded to dismiss me as a paranoid rightwing blogger and Murder Hollow’s Master Wendy Willard as a “nutter” and a dog abuser. Burns’s publicly-performed Snoopy dance of triumph on this one was sufficient to make readers think he had the Pulitzer Prize in the bag.
He certainly made points with the PETA crowd, who happily began quoting Burns as the party line on the story.
I was personally disappointed because I actually read Burns’s blog regularly, but I merely noted in my response that Burns was relying on a single, obviously partisan source, repeating the PSPCA version of circumstances and events. I also identified some reasons why I think PSPCA’s word is not to be trusted.
Naturally, since I had received so much attention in Burn’s blog, I tried forwarding a link to my own posting in response. I had to go through a major log-in procedure to try posting a comment, and in the end my comment was merely forwarded to Burns for approval.
Several days later, it had not gotten into TDD’s comments, and I was rather displeased at what seemed to be a policy of censoring rejoinders at TDD, so I sent Burns a short email commenting negatively.
He responded, claiming to be “away from keyboard,” answering via cellphone, and he and I wound up arguing about all this by email much of the day on Sunday.
I didn’t publish our email correspondence myself, but Burns took a really stupid point of argument which no rational response could persuade him to relinquish as the occasion for another blog article.
I have challenged Mr Zincavage and the 11 “staff members” of the Murder Hollow Bassets to pay for three or four years worth of private (and legal) kenneling for those seized Philadelphia dogs.
There are many commercial kennels in Pennsylvania, and I am sure the the SPCA will have no objection to the dogs being placed in a good private kennel provided that three or four years worth of kennel fees are paid up in full and in advance, plus any veterinary bills accrued.
No, not a month. No, not four months. Three or four years.
After all, these dogs deserve continuity of care, and with 12 people to shoulder the cost of kenneling, it shouldn’t be too big a deal for everyone to pony up the price.
Talk is cheap.
But, of course, so too are most people—a point missed by many conservatives.
They will tell you they are against taxation, preferring instead that everything be done by some mysterious thing called “a Thousand Points of Light.”
Fine. Here’s a chance for Mr. Zincavage and the Murder Hollow “staff” to be a Point of Light. Pay for the veterinary costs plus three or four years of private kenneling for Wendy Willard’s basset hounds. She will still own them—the donors will simply be making a charitable gift to make sure things are done right by the dogs.
As I explained in our emails, nobody wants to lock up 11 hunting bassets away from their home, their owner, their pack, and the out-of-doors in a commercial kennel operated by strangers for three or four years. (How long does Burns think hounds live, do you suppose?) No rational reason or necessity proposes such a course.
Ms. Willard, her ten staff members, and the dozens of residents of the greater Philadelphia area who hunt with Murder Hollow Bassets are perfectly able to provide for those hounds, and if some imaginary tragic circumstance arrived to eliminate from the world every person affiliated with Murder Hollow, that hound pack is part of a national organization of affiliated packs. There are plenty of packs and individual basset hunters out there who could and would give all of Murder Hollow’s hounds new homes.
There is no need to do what Mr. Burns insists on proposing as his own subjective test of bona fides. No one wants such an arrangement. The PSPCA wouldn’t agree to it. And it would not, in the least, be in the interest of the hounds.
One really wonders, reading this kind of idiocy, what kind of understanding of hunting dogs, or dogs in general, the Terrierman possesses. Burns seems to look upon dogs purely as a cost center, a kind of tool requiring fixed costs that anyone can cheerfully stuff away in a warehouse setting for 3-4 years in order to prove a point.
But there is no point. The Murder Hollow Bassets have been an organized hunting pack chasing quarry in the field since 1986, and participating and competing in hound shows and pack trials since at least 1994. If they didn’t meet all the costs Mr. Burns’s fantasy is intended to project, they would hardly still be in operating existence, nor would they be accepted as a recognized basset pack by a knowledgeable community of hound lovers and keen sportsmen or be permitted to be part of the national organization.
Beth Brelje reports, in the Pocono Record of December 21, 2008, of a truly horrifying, but only too recognizable, case featuring the same pattern of less than accurate accusations, owner intimidation, and forced surrender of animals by PSPCA officers, with real victimization of helpless animals as the result
And the end of this article describes exactly what has happened to the Murder Hollow bassets. They have been reduced to being warehoused as live evidence by an arrogant, systematically dishonest, and callously cruel organization with an appalling record of animal mistreatment of its own, which poses before the public, in its insatiable quest for money and power, as the protector of the very animals it mishandles and not infrequently kills.
They should be investigated and prosecuted by the Commonwealth’s Attorney General and the United States Attorney. It is long past time in Pennsylvania to bring key PSPCA officials and officers responsible for this reign of terror to justice, to put PSPCA out of business, and to turn its legitimate functions over to responsible individuals and groups.
Miss Kittipie’s owner, Linda Jones-Newman, watched in horror as her 13-year-old quarter horse was killed by lethal injection under the direction of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. ...
Miss Kittipie, was a former racer who received an injection of medicine in her injured knee when she was 2. The medicine caused the knee to swell and it stayed that way. The horse managed normally with the knee for 11 years and even brought eight foals to term as a brood mare. Miss Kittipie had been with the Newmans for nine months.
Johnson saw the knee and thought Miss Kittipie was crippled. She tried to convince the Newmans to put her down. They would not agree. When she left the farm Jan. 9, Johnson, who was later found to be working without a veterinary license according to court papers, called the PSPCA.
Johnson later admitted, at a preliminary hearing in court, that Miss Kittipie’s condition was chronic rather than an emergency.
Three days later, with no warning, PSPCA humane police officer Chad Weaver served a search warrant and issued a threat to the Newmans.
“He said, ‘This can end right now. If you give me all your animals, this can end.’ He said they would drop the animal cruelty charges if I cooperated and gave all my animals over,” Kevin Newman said. The animals had food, water and shelter. Newman did not agree to give them up.
This tactic is part of PSPCA humane officer training statewide.
“We were taught to intimidate people into giving their animals up. We were told to tell them ‘in lieu of charges, surrender your animals,’” said one former PSPCA humane officer.
Some former officers say there was a quota.
“My Christmas bonus depended on how many animals I brought in,” said former PSPCA humane officer Tammy Kerr.
That’s false, says Howard Nelson, PSPCA chief executive.
“There is no such quota. The majority of our cases are resolved by leaving the animals in place with some education,” he said.
Kevin Newman says that without discussion and with no opportunity to get another vet’s opinion, humane officers walked Miss Kittipie out of her stall the day of the raid and instructed Johnson to kill her, right in front of the owners.
“I was really hurt. She was a sweet horse,” Newman said. ...
After killing Miss Kittipie, the PSPCA humane officers were not done. They loaded up many animals: six ducks, two guinea hens, 15 chickens, seven geese, one parakeet, four cats, five dogs, five pigmy goats, one mini pony, two mini donkeys, two llamas, one miniature cow, three sheep, 16 horses and one grade pony. The seized animals became evidence. Some of the evidence was destroyed. The miniature cow was later killed by the PSPCA, which claimed it was dehydrated.
Humane officers also removed a macaw from the house in the middle of winter and left the tropical bird in a cold vehicle for hours during the seizure, according to Kevin Newman.
True to his word — since the animals were not given up freely — Weaver charged Linda Jones-Newman with 25 counts of animal cruelty and deprivation and Kevin Newman with two counts.
A judge later dismissed all charges against Linda and one against Kevin. He paid $75 in a total fines for faulty sanitary conditions of four dogs. The PSPCA was ordered to give the animals back. ...
Some of the animals that lived through the ordeal were returned from the PSPCA in deplorable condition, according to Newman. The dogs and cats had fleas, ear mites and hair so matted that it had to be cut.
A tricolor Australian shepherd’s white fur was stained yellow from months of living in the PSPCA’s urine-soaked cage.
“He was lying in urine when we went to get them,” Newman said. ...
Publicity for this and other high-profile seizures boosts PSPCA donations while simultaneously smearing the reputation of animal owners. ...
Live evidence kept in storage cages for months and sometimes years while court cases drag on cannot be adopted out. It would seem to create a storage problem at the crowded shelters.
“It is the same process the police go through when they suspect a crime. In any search warrant process, the evidence is always seized. You have to secure the evidence to put on your case. The difference with a living, breathing animal is that we have to provide care. We are required by law to do everything we can for the animals so they are ready for adoption when we win the case,” Nelson said.
When confiscated animals die of sicknesses, the blame is often allocated to the allegedly abusive owner, even after the animals have been in PSPCA care long enough to develop new illnesses.
Half of the cats seized in a Venengo County case died under PSPCA care. (The humane officer’s authority to have animals surrendered was challenged in court in that case and a judge ruled in favor of the PSPCA).
The PSPCA made its case in a statement to the Pocono Record:
“When animals are seized as evidence, they are just that — evidence for the case. Until a judge makes a determination of guilt in the case, the animals are still property of the defense. We cannot adopt the animals, but we can make a determination, with veterinary guidance, to euthanize suffering animals.”
Animals that don’t die in PSPCA custody can be penned up so long that they go stir crazy.
Once an animal’s behavior is negatively affected, it may likely be considered not adoptable and become marked for death row.
Animals cleared for adoption pay their own way. They are not adopted out until a new owner gives a cash donation to the PSPCA.
Predictably, the PSPCA supplemented their web-site’s announcement of new violations lavished on Wendy Willard to punish her for public questioning of their actions and for inquiries about the fate and whereabouts of the Murder Hollow bassets with an Inquirer “news report” from their faithful mouthpiece reporter Amy Worden.
PSPCA cites Basset breeder for lack of vet care, sanitation
A Philadelphia woman, whose illegal kennel was the subject of a raid last month, has been charged with failing to provide vet care and for poor sanitation.
Wendy Willard, owner of Murder Hollow Bassets in Roxborough, was issued 22 citations during a follow up inspection on Friday, according to the Pennsylvania SPCA.
Willard, who competed her hounds at prestigious sporting dog events around Philadelphia and in Virginia’s fox hunting region, surrendered 11 dogs to humane officers on July 27. The officers found filthy kennel conditions and dogs covered in feces and infested with parasites, the PSPCA said. The agency removed the animals because there were 23 dogs on the property, 11 more than are allowed under the city’s animal ordinance.
Willard was given two weeks to make improvements and get vet care for the remaining animals, but the PSPCA said in press release that when the officers returned last week “overall living conditions remained poor.”
Willard was issued 11 citations for unsanitary conditions, 11 citations for lack of veterinary care and two tickets for barking. Graphic photos of the dogs detailing their condition and their housing have been turned over to the district attorney’s office. Efforts to reach Willard were unsuccessful.
Agents first went to the property on July 21 in response to neighbor complaints about noise and order. When they found no one at home they left a card telling the owner to contact them. When Willard failed to contact them, they returned on July 27 to inspect the property. Willard refused and threw stones at the officers’ vehicles as they left, said George Bengal, the PSPCA director of law enforcement. They returned later that day with a warrant to search the property.
The dogs were turned over to Basset hound rescue groups, the PSPCA said.
It is perfectly obvious that they lied previously in promising that hounds surrendered to them could be reclaimed.
They have lied repeatedly about the bassets being moved from their holding center and delivered to a basset rescue organization.
They have misused their authority to threaten, harass, and opportunistically level charges against Ms. Willard. Either those kennels were unsanitary and the hounds lacking veterinary care, or they were not. When the PSPCA is applying the law in Philadelphia, every animal owner is in the position of the cafe owner being shaken down by the crooked cop. The cop looks around and spies a speck of dust, bam! he writes a health code violation. The cop throws a plate on the floor and smashes it, bam! he writes a safety violation.
It is also obvious that if Mrs. Parks had never phoned PSPCA, if people on the Internet had never reported what happened on July 27th, and Ms. Willard surrendered 11 dogs to be sold for $200 apiece and neutered most of the rest (in compliance with international Animal Rights philosophy, which desires to eliminate pet reproduction as a step toward eliminating pet ownership) and kept silent, none of those 22 violations would ever have existed. Nor would Ms. Willard’s remaining bassets have been ticketed for barking at PSPCA intruders.
The PSPCA arrives in a massive raid expecting to find what?... an illegal puppy mill? A ring of illegal immigrant bassets importing cocaine in their collars? a group of fanatical Islamist basset hounds plotting terrorist acts?
Whatever it was, they don’t find it. But the PSPCA is never wrong. They do find a grievous breach of public order actively underway.
A middle-aged, retired school teacher residing at a home located on a 340-acre nature center, the largest privately-owned tract of land within the city limits of Philadelphia, is found to be housing 11 basset hounds possibly in excess of the residential dwelling limit prescribed in the Philadelphia Code Animal section § 10-103(8).
Whether, in fact, a kennel attached to a barn on the property is “a residential dwelling unit” is open to question and interpretation.
There is also some question about whether the City of Philadelphia by accepting fees and licensing Ms. Willard’s basset hounds for all those years, since 1986 when the 12 animal limit was imposed, and in which same year Ms. Willard founded the Murder Hill Bassets, without demurral over the number of licenses it was issuing, had not implicitly authorized her possession of those hounds.
But, let’s leave all that aside. Suppose Ms. Willard was guilty, caught red-handed in possession of eleven more basset hounds than the Phildelphia Code permits? What does the Law say?
The penalty for the first violation of any provision of this Section shall be a minimum fine of $100.
As I read over the law, I see nothing about confiscation. I see nothing in this provision specifying forfeiture of animals as a penalty for this kind of violation.
As the new PSPCA release demonstrates quite vividly, Wendy Willard is not in trouble for the basically trivial offense of (perhaps) violating a number of hounds limit. She is in trouble for failing to adequately and unconditionally surrender and grovel before the authority of the thugs and bozos of the PSPCA.
The scope of the tyranny we’re looking at here can be seen in reference to the reality of the situation. Wendy Willard actually did surrender completely. She signed the papers they intimidated her into signing (giving away 11 hounds). She agreed to neuter all but 4 of her carefully-bred, twenty-year-old pack. She kept silence.
What got Wendy into more trouble, and what is causing her bassets to be kept locked in tiny cages, is PSPCA retaliation for that anonymous person posting the original story of the raid on the Internet, and other people, Betsy Parks, me, all the people discussing this on bulletin boards, email lists, and blogs. We questioned PSPCA behavior and authority. We asked about those basset hounds, and here is the result.
On Friday, August 7, 2009, Humane Law Enforcement officers from the Pennsylvania SPCA conducted a pre-arranged follow-up inspection of Murder Hollow, the location of an illegal basset hound kennel in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, PA. The owner had previously surrendered 11 dogs during the officers’ visit on Monday, July 27, 2009, due to unsanitary conditions, lack of veterinary care and more dogs than allowed by law.
Despite the time allotted to the owner to make improvements, overall living conditions remained poor at the second inspection, resulting in 11 citations for unsanitary conditions, 11 citations for lack of veterinary care and two tickets for barking. Graphic photos of the dogs detailing their condition and their housing have been turned over to the district attorney’s office.
We appreciate the continued outpouring of support for these dogs from the Bassett community.
NYM was informed on Saturday by the regional Basset Hound Rescue group working with PSPCA that they had originally been scheduled to receive ten of Murder Hollow’s basset hounds to be distributed to new owners in exchange for a $200 per dog adoption fee.
Either the first appearance of accounts of the PSPCA raid on the Murder Hollow kennels on canine-oriented bulletin boards early last week or attempts by Mrs. Parks to contact by telephone PSPCA officials around the same time were sufficient to cause PSPCA to go on full defensive alert. The Murder Hollow bassets were described to me as “locked down,” their status “frozen,” as PSPCA prepares to fight any recovery attempts by the hounds’ owners.
In that state of affairs, there will be no transportation to Basset Rescue, no foster homes, no adoptions, and certainly no returned bassets.
Instead, despite PSPCA’s own complaints about both its shelters being “full too capacity” and pleas for assistance, this is all about power and who is boss. PSPCA will not discuss the situation and will not even consider relinquishing the surviving bassets it confiscated into the hands of their owners or even alternative care providers (including veterinarians) offered by the scent hound community
I say “surviving bassets” because the Basset Rescue organization told me on Saturday that they had been told that ten bassets would be coming their way. Eleven were taken by PSPCA. It is impossible to know the truth, but people who care about those hounds are very worried that Sappho, in particular, a 12 year old bitch enjoying an honorable retirement as a pet, may not have survived being rescued.
Two of the seized bassets were elderly, and animal welfare organizations like PSPCA are commonly committed to rigid and inflexible patterns of operation. They may have proceeded to spay and neuter every basset hound they took away from Murder Hollow, and it seems not unlikely that the stress of an elderly hound’s removal from her home and familiar people, and the trauma of a pointless neutering operation, could have resulted in the death of an older hound.
They took eleven basset hounds. They had not moved the dogs out of the cages in that holding facility over a week later, but they intended eventually to transfer ten.
You can get some sense of what these people are like by looking at this video of Howard Nelson, one of the former CEOs of the scandal-ridden PSPCA (since replaced himself), who delivers a characteristically arrogant and self-righteous mission statement, tossing around the usual wild accusations of abused animals everywhere in Pennsylvania in the process of justifying whatever it was that he was planning to do.
Cat, the administrator of Basset Town Hall, quoted this statement by Wendy Willard, which she says she found on “one of the basset boards.” (I’m still trying to find which that was.)
One of NYM’s own commenters, Denise, posted it this morning, in the comments on the first Murder Hollow Bassets posting.
First a huge thank you for all your words of support and everything that you have done! I had my third visit today from the PSPCA and again threats of multiple citations if I didn’t cooperate with these lovely folks. I can fill you in the details, but more important fish to fry (sorry, Jeep [the reference to “Jeep” is a private comment addressed to a friend of Ms. Willard’s: Mrs. Peyton S. Cochran, Master of the Calf Pasture Bassets of Maryland]).
I have been deluged by phone calls and e-mails from all over the country, from a lawyer in GA (” forget the SPCA, go directly to the State Attorney General”) to the manager of a shelter in IL (“can’t believe.. and horrified”). The blogs seem to have been in over drive.
Good news is we got a very sympathetic article in one of the two major papers today. A reporter has also called from the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as the AKC and the Chronicle of the Horse (Molly Sorgi? [Molly Sorge] 804-994-2349). My problem is that if I respond personally, the SPCA has made it clear that I must “cooperate or multiple citations will be issued and there would be no PA Kennel License”.
So here is my response to the PSPCA website (www.pspca.org/news), first article about the Murder Hollow Bassets. I cannot respond to anyone in the media or even the PSPCA, but I can let you know. Whatever you chose to do with my information, oh well.
1. Only one dog barking complaint from unknown neighbor, no other complaints. That neighbor has yet to come forth, although all, I mean all have expressed dismay in writing. Never in the 22 years of having a kennel here has anyone come to me to complain in person, writing, or e-mail.
2. The websites indicated that the SPCA left requests to be contacted. The ‘Humane Law Officer’ (her term, not mine) left a card in my door with no information, no requests for a call, no warnings or no citations a few days before the raid. Absolutely none. She could have left a note to call, because I get lots of cards from grass cutters to painters. No mention of any 12 dog limit in the city.
3. Yes, I initially refused entry with a long explanation about abuses due to the new Dog Law. Two Dog Law Officers (from Harrisburg in two trucks), three PSPCA officers (in three trucks, not including the small truck with those tiny multiple pens on the side), and two Police Officers (two police cars) quickly returned with a search warrant.
4. The PSPCA did NOT work with the owner to reduce the number of dogs. Officer Tara Loller repeatedly, repeatedly threatened to take all the dogs if I did not give her 10. Under extreme duress and far outnumbered, I handed over 10 hounds. Talk about Sophie’s Choice in the dark. Then they found Hansel and demanded one more. I gave them my other house hound, taking off her collar and Invisible Fence collar. All the time crying hysterically and protesting loudly.
5. When forced to sign release papers for the now 11 hounds, I explained that Betsy Park [Mrs. James M. Park, Master of the Sandanona Hare Hounds of Millbrook, New York] was the technical owner of three and wrote her name at the bottom of the forms. (Betsy, sending you copies.) Officer Loller assured me that Betsy Park would get first consideration for adoption.
6. A ‘Warning’ for re-inspection was issued, but no other warning or citation. A copy of the Philadelphia Animals laws (17 pages) included 3 lines which stated “No residential dwelling unit shall keep a total of more than twelve (12) adult dogs or cats combined of which no more than four (4) may be unneutered”, was left in my kennels. These laws were never handed to me before or after the raid, and I was never informed of these laws by my Philadelphia Vet or the Philadelphia Dog Licensing Agency that took my money year after year.
7. At the first re-inspection, the ‘Humane Law Officer’ was accompanied by an Assistant District Attorney, Barbara Paul. They found the conditions of the hounds (one bitch needed nail trimming, all done by my Vet) and kennels to be satisfactory (some ceiling insulation tiles were more securely fastened). The indentations in the limestone screenings outside the kennel made by random scratching will be filled with more screenings. That should have been accomplished, but the black cloud over the kennel dropped 6+” of rain on Sunday. Tons of stone are being dumped on the lane first.
8. The DA left her card and asked to be phoned with questions. I e-mailed her a question about the definition of “residential dwelling unit”. Is the barn a separate unit? As it was constructed and only used by hounds, does that make the barn a residential unit? She replied that she could not give me that information because we may be in “adversarial positions” and directed me to the Philadelphia Bar Lawyer Referrals.
9. To date, no one has been told of the location of the seized hounds and no calls have been returned from Officer Ray Little, the PSPCA Adoption Agent. A neighboring Vet who has offered free health care for the life of the adoptees and wants Khaki has not heard from them. David Gottier who wants the two litter mates of his hounds and Sandy McKenna who wants the one year old fuzzy bitch have been stone walled. Dr. Roy Feldman and Pat Renner from my Hunt have not heard back. But there is an urgent message on the PSPCA website asking for foster homes and adoptions, because they have no room in the shelter.
Again, I am asking you to be in the position of the messenger, but feel free to ask me any questions. Thank you SO much.
[The posted text also includes at the very bottom the name Julian Praeger, an attorney who may be representing Ms. Willard.)
Like you, yesterday I assumed that the PSPCA was a private humanitarian organization. I kept wondering why its representatives kept talking like they were law enforcement officers. How does a private humanitarian society, funded by donations from foundations and animal lovers, get to invade homes, seize pets, and ignore requests for explanations and information from the public?
Well, it’s like this… the PSPCA is not only funded by dollars provided by private cat-and-dog lovers. It is also a business. The PSPCA is really in essence an animal prison and execution facility, which manages to help write laws in its own favor, while successfully posing as a charity.
PSPCA contracts its services, consisting of locking pets in cages (or chaining them to cages when the cages are full, as is not infrequently the case) in loud, smelly rooms, then euthanizing many of them, to the city of Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania requires shelters to hold stray dogs for 48 hours before euthanasia, to allow time for owners to find them. ACCT (the Animal Care and Control Team division of PSPCA - jdz) recently extended the “hold” time from 48 to 72 hours. On the surface, this sounds like a good thing. But it has bad consequences. It means animals cannot be adopted out or released to rescue groups for an extra day, which ties up cage space. Insiders told of dogs tethered to the outside of cages, and cats stacked up in carriers.
If all cage space is filled with stray “holds” and an owner surrenders an animal, that animal will be put to death immediately because there is no mandatory “hold” on surrendered pets. (The Murder Hollow Bassets were surrendered just that way. Are they really still alive? Who knows? -jdz) Health got complaints that that was happening to these adoptable pets – just as in 2004, when I first wrote about tragic PACCA practices. Who turned the clock back to a dark past?
PSPCA competed successfully earlier this year against a rival similar organization for the city animal control contract, but then experienced a lot of internal turmoil.
ACCT, a division of PSPCA, took over the city animal-control contract Jan. 1. Chaos ensued a mere six weeks later, when PSPCA CEO Howard Nelson, who had sought the contract, quit in a huff. Board member Beth Ann White, a former banking executive with no kennel experience, was thrust into the breach, with almost predictable results.
I’m glad that the Health Department, which oversees the contract, responded quickly to complaints. I’m less glad that Melhem says that he is again satisfied by reassurances. What did Ronald Reagan say – trust, but verify?
With almost 3 million taxpayer dollars funding the contract, the public has a right to expect better – not worse – performance from PSPCA than it got from the Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association, from which it wrested the contract.
Cosby is the third PSPCA CEO in four months, following Howard Nelson, who fled under fire in February, and interim CEO Beth Anne White, who spent three months in the free-fire zone battling accusations of fudged “save” rates and botched medical protocols that resulted in vast numbers of sick dogs and cats.
————————————————————————— Is PSPCA an honorable steward of animals? Can its allegations about unsanitary kennels be relied upon?
Or does PSPCA have a proven record of lying and a shamefully deficient animal care record of its own?
The same way the PSPCA would not answer questions about the fate or whereabouts of the Murder Hollow Bassets yesterday, the PSPCA has used a closed database to conceal the numbers and percentages of animals euthanized.
The PSCPA runs two shelters within a couple of miles of one another. The larger shelter, called ACCT (Animal Care and Control Team) on Hunting Park Ave. in North Philadelphia, is where roughly 31,000 homeless animals funnel into after being saved from the streets or given up by their owners. The animals are processed at Hunting Park, then either pulled by rescue partners, euthanized or sent to the second shelter, on Erie Ave., where PSCPA’s statistics had categorized such animals as “adopted.”
The ACCT database is “open” to the Health Department, which oversees the contract, while Erie’s database remains closed. As PW recently reported [The (Scary) Truth about Cats and Dogs, April 21], critics were concerned that not all of the animals shipped from Hunting Park to Erie were actually being adopted. In fact, they worried that some animals were being euthanized at Erie and not being properly accounted for in the PSCPA’s official save rates.
They were right.
PSPCA board members say they are now working to calculate “more accurate” numbers and will adjust January and February’s statistics accordingly. Between January and February, 786 animals were shipped to Erie and counted as “adopted” and save rates—72.4 percent for January and 80.9 percent for February—were admirable, especially for an organization just transitioning into the municipal animal-control role. PSPCA was also besieged by problems such as CEO Howard Nelson’s abrupt resignation six weeks into the six-month animal-control contract—a contract the organization had feverishly pursued.
March’s statistics, published after PW’s story ran, were presented online with a new section called “Outcomes of PSPCA Transfers,” which itemizes what the PSCPA board says is the true outcome of those animals, though they do not admit that prior stats had been favorably skewed intentionally.
“The numbers were not broken out in that way [in January and February] because that’s not what the city had first requested,” said Beth Ann White in a recent interview at Hunting Park Ave. “Then we all decided to go to the new format to make it more transparent.”
The newly presented numbers assert that, counting euthanasia at Erie, March’s save rate is 62.3 percent and April’s—just published—is 59.6%.
White says there is a team currently working to “redress” January and February’s save rate statistics, and that the new numbers will be published online “soon.”
If January and February’s “Outcomes of PSPCA Transfers” follows March’s pattern, about 118—roughly 15 percent—of the 786 animals previously identified as “adopted” would have been euthanized at the Erie facility.
Yet with Erie’s database still closed, it’s unclear where these new numbers are coming from.
But not only cats and dogs being deliberately euthanized are dying at PSPCA shelters:
It’s been a bad year for the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—but not as bad as for Philadelphia’s homeless animals.
After fighting tooth and nail for Philadelphia’s animal control contract, the PSPCA won a six-month contract that began January 1. Then, as controversy haunted the organization all over Pennsylvania, CEO Howard Nelson suddenly resigned and vanished into the ether, leaving the job in the hands of the part-time volunteer board. Then animals reportedly got so sick rescue partners began to refuse to accept more cats or dogs from the shelter.
PW reported on rescue organizations’ allegations of sick and dying animals, ongoing vaccination delays—and questioned the real outcome for cats and dogs shipped from the shelter on Hunting Park Avenue in North Philadelphia to one a couple miles away on Erie Avenue: Were all of those animals actually adopted? Or were some euthanized, then not calculated into the final save rate?
Barry Watson, a Philadelphia animal rescuer with experience dealing with PSPCA, also commented on the death rate last May.
The PSPCA has failed me miserably since January 1. Virtually every program that allowed me to pull high volumes of cats from Hunting Park is gone. Baby kittens have been dying by the dozens and virtually all adult pulls have come down with the calici virus or other serious upper URIs.
Going back over six years, to the day I pulled my first cat from Hunting Park, I have never experienced more widespread illness, infecting almost every cat pulled, than I’ve experienced in just the first four months of 2009. Had I experienced mortality rates like this in 2003, I would not have returned in 2004. It is important to point out that the ACCT Lifesaving Staff is fully aware of these problems and has made every effort to implement effective changes, but kittens continue to die and adults get terribly sick.
(I)nsiders say, shelter conditions have gotten so bad that animals need to be saved from the very place they go for protection.
Since the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) reassumed Philadelphia’s animal control contract in January, reports of intake backlog, overcrowding, fuzzy numbers and infectious disease outbreaks have oozed out of the shelter in a steady stream.
Insiders allege that shelter conditions and protocol are crumbling. Rescue workers (who regularly pull animals out of the shelter and place them in homes) and volunteers say they’ve never seen so many sick animals come out of the Hunting Park shelter. One foster parent with more than 20 years experience says that in the last few months, all 18 of the kittens she rescued from ACCT have died.
“They might seem fine the day you pull them, but within two weeks, they’re gone,” she says. “My backyard is like a graveyard.”
So, tell me, Mr. Bengal, how clean are your kennels?
Unlike the Inquirer, the Daily News actually talked to Wendy Willard and quoted NYM.
(H)unting rabbits, in special dress, following a pack of howling basset hounds, isn’t exactly a pastime of the masses.
It has, however, stirred controversy on the Web after a recent raid on the quarters of Murder Hill Bassets in Roxborough, home to nearly two dozen bassets used in foot pursuit of cottontail rabbits on privately owned land.
The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said on its Web site yesterday that late last month its agents visited the property on Hagys Mill Road where Wendy Willard lived with 23 bassets.
A PSPCA agent said they went in response to noise and odor complaints, and obtained warrants when they couldn’t get in.
Willard surrendered 11 of the dogs after the July 27 raid, said George Bengal, chief investigator of animal cruelty complaints for the PSPCA.
A long-standing Philadelphia statute forbids keeping more than 12 animals per household.
Although the PSPCA contended complainants drew them to the Hagys Mill property, critics charged that the animals were taken because many in the animal-rescue field frown on hunting.
Many basset clubs hunt rabbits, not to kill them but to test the dogs’ skills.
Willard didn’t want to talk about her troubles yesterday, but she did say that three of the animals surrendered actually belonged to a New York woman who has been unsuccessful in learning where the PSPCA placed them.
“They are my family,” a distraught Willard said of her dogs.
The Inquirer posted a photograph of the wrong house. That home’s owner contacted me by email today asking me to remove the copy I posted of the photo.
Stung by criticism on the Internet of their July 27th raid on the kennels of Wendy Willard’s Murder Hollow Basset pack, the confiscation of eleven basset hounds, and PSPCA’s refusal for ten days to provide information on the hounds’ whereabouts or fate to concerned friends, the Animal Care and Control organization began yesterday to defend itself, first (yesterday afternoon, by some coincidence, not very long after my phone conversation with PR officer Gail Luciani) releasing a seemingly conciliatory statement suggesting that PSPCA was “working with the hounds’ owner” and even thanking (!) the Basset community.
Murder Hollow Basset Hound Update
In response to complaints, Pennsylvania SPCA officers visited the location of Murder Hollow Kennels and left requests to be contacted. There was no response to these requests.
On a follow-up visit by a Pennsylvania SPCA officer and representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Dog Law six days later, the owner was present but refused entry. Both Dog Law representatives and Pennsylvania SPCA officers returned later that evening with warrants to enter the property.
The dogs were found to be in unsanitary conditions, and the number of dogs present exceeded the City of Philadelphia limit of 12 animals allowed on a property.
In lieu of charges, Pennsylvania SPCA agents worked with the owner to reduce the number of dogs on the premises and allowed her time to clean and make improvements to the area in which the dogs were housed.
The owner surrendered some of the dogs and is working to clean and improve the kennels prior to a follow-up inspection. The Pennsylvania SPCA is encouraged by her efforts in providing and maintaining a more sanitary setting as well as veterinary care for the dogs that remain.
The dogs are safe in foster care with an independent, partner organization.
We appreciate the outpouring of support for these dogs from the Bassett community.
Murder Hollow hounds last year. They’ve never looked covered with feces, or riddled with parasites, any time I saw them.
Most of us did not know then that, slightly earlier, PSPCA had planted a much more colorful story with a sympathetic reporter at the Inquirer, which appeared yesterday morning.
Philadelphia resident Wendy Willard ran in tony rabbit and fox hunting circles. Her pack, formed in 1986, was listed among a select handful from Virginia hunt country and elsewhere in the prestigious Chronicle of the Horse, the bible of the horse and hound crowd. The kennel’s Bassets won awards at the Bryn Mawr Hound Show.
Last week the Pennsylvania SPCA raided her farmhouse in the Schuylkill Valley Nature Preserve and found 23 dogs covered in feces and riddled with parasites, said George Bengal, the PSPCA’s director of law enforcement.
“The kennel was a mess,” he said.
Humane agents first went to the house on July 21 in response to neighbor complaints about noise and odor, said Bengal. Finding no one home, they left cards asking the property owner to contact them. When no one responded, an agent and two state dog wardens returned on July 27. Willard refused them entry and as they left the property she threw stones at the officers’ vehicles, said Bengal.
They returned later that day with a search warrant and found dogs living in what Bengal described as unsanitary conditions and in need of veterinary care. Willard voluntarily surrendered 11 dogs and agreed to comply with certain conditions for keeping the rest, including inspections, he said.
“We could have charged her, but we didn’t yet,” said Bengal. “We could have seized the dogs, but she agreed to get medical care for the remaining dogs and spay or neuter eight of the 12 dogs” – the limit allowed under the city’s decades old animal ordinance.
Since there were fewer than 26 dogs on the property (the number required for a state kennel license) there were no citations issued by the state, said Chris Ryder, spokesman for the Department of Agriculture.
The dogs that were removed were placed with Basset hound rescue groups, the PSPCA said.
The PSPCA’s executive director Sue Cosby said they did not initially release any information about the incident because they thought they could resolve the issue amicably with the owner.
“The officer heading the case really went out of her way to work with the owner in an effort to have the kennels cleaned up and the dogs cared for rather than file charges and take all of the dogs,’” said Cosby in an email.
So if you believe the PSPCA, this is one of those cases of a disturbed and arrogant society woman who belligerently defies law enforcement officers and throws rocks at them, while keeping a kennel full of neglected, filthy, and disease-ridden basset hounds, which hounds nevertheless, despite their pitiable condition, qualify for inclusion as a listed pack under the strict standards of the National Beagle Club, compete successfully at pack trials, and win prizes at the prestigious and highly competitive Bryn Mawr Hound Show.
Those of us familiar with basset packs have a couple of basic problems with the eccentric-woman-neglected-animals story line.
Although Wendy Willard as Master, is sole owner and supreme authority over the Murder Hollow Bassets, no basset pack operates single-handedly and in isolation. There is a staff, in this case of no less than ten Whippers-in: First Whipper-in: Lidie Peace. Hon. Whippers-in: Ginny Hofmann, Judy Hohmann, Pat West, Mary Bentley, Roy Feldman, Becky Forry, Philip Hofmann Sr., Trey Norris, Pat Renner.
The Murder Hollow pack has, listed publicly, all together, eleven active hunt staff members, all obviously drawn from the same “tony rabbit and fox hunting circles,” referred to ironically by the Inquirer.
Now while it is not difficult to believe that one single aging woman alone might possibly, because of circumstances of health, emotional stability, or even poverty, come to neglect so grievously a kennel full of dogs, in this case, we are expected to believe that 11 residents of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Philadelphia, all active and enthusiastic members of the horse and hound community, have all participated in a systematic pattern of animal neglect, failing to clean kennels, to deal with parasites, to monitor hounds’ health or to provide veterinary care.
These would be the same people who, as photos like this one show, don green woolen jackets and wear ironed white stock ties to run through the tick-infested woods at Aldie on warm days. Yet the lazy scoundrels cannot be bothered to clean their kennels. They will spend money on travel to pack trials in other states or on hunt uniforms, but won’t pay for vets. Sure.
Allegations about unsanitary kennels are pretty easy to come up with. Hounds do defecate. Nobody polices every pile of dog poop from the kennel floor the minute it arrives 24/7.
Riddled with parasites? What does that mean, I wonder. Did they see one hound scratching, and infer fleas?
Crediting the PSPCA’s good faith on allegations of this kind requires knowing a bit more about the role, character, and standard operations of that organization. I was confused myself yesterday about how it was that what I thought to be only a private humanitarian organization kept talking about violations, as if it were a branch of the government. I did not understand. They are.
I’m going to take a look at the PSPCA, who they are, what they do, and how they do business in another post. Soon.
PBBurns, of Terrierman’s Daily Dose, took one look at NYM’s righthand column (Michelle Malkin, Charlton Heston, Islamaphobia, oh my!) and, naturally, decided I’m insane.
His observation that in blog coverage of stories one typically wants to compare a variety of news accounts is perfectly correct. However, in this case, I have a modest level of personal acquaintance with Wendy Willard and the Murder Hollow Bassets, as I’m member of the same “tony rabbit and fox hunting circles” myself. The incident came to my attention via reports circulated on hunting email lists, and repeated on the Border Collie board. The Inquirer story only appeared yesterday morning, and was not being found by Google the same day. I’ve done lots of Google searches. I’ve talked to people from basset circles who have tried to reclaim, visit, or obtain information about the confiscated hounds, and who are familiar with the detailed circumstances of the case. I also talked to the PSPCA people myself. Thank you for your advice, PB.
If I was not acquainted personally with basseting, or if I had first read that Inquirer story, I might not have thought very seriously about any of this myself, and simply shrugged and assumed that the PSPCA was telling the truth and acting properly myself.
Let me give you a tip on blogging, PB. One news story obviously supplied by one side to a pet reporter is not really a whole lot better than an informal account found in emails or bulletin boards. Evaluating either is likely require more than the testimony of a single source.
Wendy Willard and the Murder Hollow Bassets at the National Beagle Club in Aldie, Virginia (photo: Karen L. Myers)
Following packs of beagles or bassets afoot in hunting club uniforms in pursuit of the cottontail rabbit is, like croquet, one of the recherchéepassions of the old school gentry.
The Murder Hollow Bassets of Philadelphia (a private pack* founded in 1986) is one thirteen organized packs of basset hounds recognized by the National Beagle Club hunting in the United States.
In 2006-2007, Murder Hollow had 7 1/2 couple (15) AKC English-French cross basset hounds. They hunt on private land in Montgomery and Bucks Counties from September to March.
The sort of people who go in for basseting are typically well-educated, upper middle-class animal lovers of a preparatory school sort of background. In other words, the very last sort of people imaginable to be dog abusers or law breakers.
But neither gentility nor middle-aged respectability was sufficient to protect the Murder Hollow’s Master Wendy Willard from a full scale raid by Philadelphia police, nor did it prevent 13 hounds from being taken from their kennels and turned over to a private animal rights organization hostile to hunting.
This incident has so far attracted no blog or media coverage, but was mentioned on a fox hunting list yesterday, and reported today on the Border Collie Bulletin Board.
The local SPCA raided Wendy’s Willard’s kennel where she keeps her Murder Hollow Bassets on Monday night. They arrived with seven trucks and two police cars & informed her that one of her neighbours had complained about noise.
Neither the neighbour nor the SPCA had previously complained to her, yet she has been there for 22 years.
As it turns out, Philadelphia County had recently passed an ordinance where no more than 12 animals may be kept on any property. The Murder Hollow kennels contained 23 bassets, less than the requirement to obtain a (US) Department of Agriculture kennel licence, but the kennel is just inside the city limits.
Under this law, the local SPCA have managed to acquire the power to seize people’s dogs without warning, by force and by night, and then to take them away to an unknown destination without any accountability.
The police took 12 hounds and delivered them to an SPCA animal rescue “shelter” in Philadelphia. From there the hounds were dispersed amongst other “shelters”.
Basset packs in the area have contacted a Mr. Little who runs the SPCA shelter, seeking to place the hounds before they are put down or neutered (thereby destroying 20 years of Murder Hollow’s breeding programme). After a week, Mr. Little has failed to respond to any of these contacts.
So far, the only response from Mr. Little has been a statement to the effect that that the hounds tested positive for Lyme’s disease but were asymptomatic and are now being treated for Lyme’s and a skin condition. On the face of it, his organisation seems to be trying to rack up a bill for these animals, though one is not sure whether this is to deter Mrs Willard trying to recover her hounds or because his rescue operation has a right to recover its costs from an errant kennel owner. In this context it is relevant to point out that most of those who keep dogs & hounds in south central or south east Pennsylvania will have hounds that test positive to some degree for Lyme’s.
This whole episode seems a totally disproportionate & inappropriate way to deal with a middle-aged woman with no criminal record, who just happens to keep a pack of hunting bassets. It would surely have been appropriate to notify the owner of the new ordinance before conducting such a raid.
To further complicate matters, some of the hounds taken were on loan from another pack in Tennessee (presumably the Upper Bay Bassets of Strawberry Plains, Tennessee) and, despite the Tennessee owner (Eugene and/or Richard Askins)’s pleas, the PSPCA will not tell her where to find her hounds.
A private pack, unlike a subscription pack, has no membership dues and holds no fund raising events. Subscription packs are incorporated entities. The master of a private pack owns the hounds personally, and simply pays for food, veterinary care, kennel upkeep, transportation, and all other expenses directly out of his (or her) own pocket.
UPDATE, August 6:
Mr. James Scharnberg, Master of the Skycastle French Hounds, writes:
Please contact by phone and e-mail the following officers of the PSPCA (Pennsylvania Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), headquartered at 350 E. Erie Ave., Phila., PA 19134, to ask about the location of and about adopting the 11 Bassets that were seized from Ms. Wendy Willard, master of a nationally registered Basset pack in Philadelphia County, on Monday night, 27 July:
Ms. Harrise Yaron, Chairman of the Board, PSPCA E-mail: email@example.com
Ms. Susan Cosby, CEO of PSPCA Erie Ave Shelter E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
TN: 215-426-6300, Ext. 214
Mr. Ray Little, Director of Adoptions and Foster Care/Rescue Groups
E-mail: email@example.com TN: 215-426-6304, Ext. 251 Cell: 215-816-5301
Ms. Willard was raided by the PSPCA and police due to a first time noise complaint, and told that unless she released 11 of her 23 hounds to them they would seize them all, under a new 12-dog-limit city ordinance. Since that night, despite countless calls and e-mails to the PSPCA, they have refused to reveal the fate or location of the hounds, or let a large number of licensed local basset hound packs and individuals, and several veterinarians, in the five county area take in the hounds. We have been told only that they have been “sent to rescue” to an independent care facility, and that they are under no obligation to tell us anything.
SECOND UPDATE, August 6, 1:45 P.M.:
I spoke on the telephone with Ray Little and Gail Luciani, identifying myself as a blogger from Virginia covering the Murder Hollow Basset situation.
Mr. Little was completely unwilling to discuss the bassets. He told me he was not involved in this matter, referred me to Ms. Luciani, and got off the line as quickly as possible.
I was able to reach Ms. Luciani after several attempts. She declined to provide any substantive answers, telling me the case of Ms. Willard’s basset hounds was “under investigation.”
I asked what could they possibly be investigating for over a week in connection with a minor technical violation of a new ordinance unknown to the dogs’ owner. Ms. Luciani promised that information would be provided at the PSPCA web-page at some indeterminate future time. She specifically refused to identify how long it would be before they were prepared to publish that promised information, or what information would be forthcoming.
Ms. Luciani repeatedly said the hounds were “in rescue,” relying consistently on stony-faced invocations of official jargon as a means of avoiding responsive meaningful answers to legitimate questions concerning the hounds’ current condition and location or the PSPCA’s intentions and refusal to communicate with the hounds’ owners, outside veterinarians, and concerned friends of Wendy Willard and the Murder Hollow Bassets. She seemed a bit upset, when I demanded to know whether she was a dog owner herself, and asked how she thought her dogs would react if taken forcibly from her and confined in strange surroundings in a small cage.
Attempts to appeal to Ms. Luciani’s humanity were, nonetheless, not productive. She rapidly composed herself and resumed stonewalling, finally excusing herself rapidly to deal, doubtless similarly, with other callers.
These days, a mass-murdering terrorist can invoke habeas corpus or like Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber, force the government to modify the conditions of his confinement. There is no habeas corpus though for animals that fall into the clutches of self-appointed guardian organizations like the PSPCA.
————————————————————Some Corrections, 8/11:
Three bassets seized by PSPCA had come from the Sandanona Hare Hounds. One was a stud fee puppy, one a drafted hound given to the Murder Hollow pack, the third was a retired basset given to Wendy Willard to live in retirement as a pet. Sandanona hounds are given with a contract retaining ownership, and requiring their return to Sandanona if they cannot be cared for, specifically in order to prevent them ever winding up in an animal shelter’s cages.
Some hounds from Upper Bay were at Murder Hollow, but the Upper Bay Hounds were not surrendered.
Ms. Willard evidently erroneously accepted PSPCA Officer Loller’s assurances that Mrs. Parks of Sandanona would be permitted to reclaim her hounds.
A truculent and self-congratulatory individual named Patrick Burns, who blogs over at Terrierman’s Daily Dose, has a nasty habit of bashing other sportsmen in order to make himself feel good.
Burns came hurrying to PSPCA’s defense not long after this posting appeared, gleefully accepting the PSPCA version of events as definitively establishing that those Murder Hollow basset hounds were neglected and abused, Wendy Willard was a confirmed violator of the law, and a crazy old lady whose hounds should be taken away from her. I am a paranoid right-wing blogger irresponsibly misreporting all this, according to Burns.
The original anonymously posted account of the raid above said: As it turns out, Philadelphia County had recently passed an ordinance where no more than 12 animals may be kept on any property.
Maximum Number of Dogs and Cats Allowed. No residential dwelling unit shall keep a total of more than twelve (12) adult dogs or cats combined, of which no more than four (4) may be unneutered, unless the Department of Public Health has been notified and granted a waiver.
This section of the Philadelphia Code was added in 1986, and amended in 1992.
Wendy Willard might have been in violation of that limit. I will discuss why I say “might” in another new post.