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The Free the Kees Effort Goes to Albany!

Click here to view the story on our recent efforts in Albany.

Meeting Notes:

June 2, 2015 Meeting at the offices of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, 10B Airline Drive, Albany, New York 12235 518-457-3880 1-800-554-4501 Time 3:15pm – 5:05pm

In attendance: Dr. Smith - Director, Division of Animal Industry Dr. David Chico - New York State Veterinarian Scott Wyner - Deputy Council NY Dept. of Ag & Markets

From Free the Kees Group: Denise Sharp Donna Stekli Holly Morin Jan Volkmer Leslie Vail Paileggi Gregg Buddenhagen Nightwing Whitehead Jesse Oak Zandra Brown Kim Baxter Dee Wingfield Becky Chabot Bret Shell

The first four (4) from our group in the room had to sign a release form.

Below are questions and responses raised and discussed during the meeting. 1). What are the qualifications to become an inspector? All of the inspectors are licensed Veterinary Technicians - the two (2) assigned to Broome County have been on the job between 20-30 years. Dr. Chico considers these inspectors to very ethical people and he personally knows both of them. They are required to take Continuing Education courses to maintain their technician licenses but none of the courses are required to be specific to their jobs. 2). How are inspections conducted? "Contrary to what you have been told" all inspections are unannounced with the exception of the initial meeting where it is more of an educational meeting about how the dealer licensing works. If a pet dealer has a non-compliant inspection, they know within what timeframe the follow-up will occur but not when. All inspections are visual - they cannot touch the animals because of bio security concerns and requirements. In other words, they could be blamed for spreading diseases. The pet dealer is required to grant access to all parts of the property - house, kennel, and garage - nothing is off limits. 3). The pet dealer vet plan has a portion that describes an exercise plan and parasite control plan. Can you tell us how that is enforced? The veterinarian signs off on the plan, but there is no way to observe the facility 24 hours per day to see if it is being done. As far as the parasite control - they cannot order diagnostic testing. The only thing they can do is if they see diarrhea or signs of illness - they can request that the dog(s) be seen by a licensed vet. They will follow-up to see that it has been done - but with no way to identify which dog is which - they cannot guarantee that the correct dog was seen or treated. We commented that since we know these dogs were eating their own stools (and still do) they are likely to never see the evidence. At this point, they asked that we take steps to suggest an amendment to the laws that all pets are permanently identified via microchip to ensure that the correct dogs are being treated and followed up on. 4). We asked about all the genetic defects and issues like the hind legs and the need for surgeries and why Marjorie could not be stopped from breeding these defects? Dr. Chico and Dr. Smith explained that they cannot regulate the breeding of defects. They agreed that you would hope a reputable breeder would be concerned about quality and not continue a bad line but that is not always the situation and they have not authority to stop it. As Dr. Smith stated you can take the ugly defects and continue to breed as long as you care for the animals and do not abuse them. 5). What does the breeder or pet dealer have to provide the animals? We discussed the need to train the released dogs how to eat out of a bowl and conditions found with them like burn marks and frostbite. Dr. Smith and Dr. Chico both said the laws are basic and the minimal standards of care for the animals. They must have clean not frozen water available but what is clean and how it is provided are not defined. They need to be provided nutritional food but this is not defined and how it is served is not defined. The animal is to be provided a comfortable temperature to live in but again this is not defined and use of heat lamps and other means are acceptable as long as the dog is not injured. 6). Can you please explain the multiple discrepancies within the inspection reports from your own agency?  How can you be compliant with an expired license? If an inspection yields a non-compliant result, the license will not be rented until it is brought back into compliance. She can continue to operate as if she has a valid license during this period and the license will be renewed with no lapse in time. Dr. Chico will review the inspection reports to verify if this was the case.  How can you explain the same number of dogs from one inspection to the next when we took possession of dogs in the interim? It is their policy to do actual head counts. It was pointed out that we know this is not happening because the numbers do not match for periods where dogs were released to us. We questioned how it is even possible given that the dogs are not handled or identified, there are multiple dogs in one kennel, and they have the ability to run into the back portion of the kennels that is not fully visible from the front. Dr. Chico will meet with the inspectors and verify that they are performing actual counts.  Can you explain why Marjorie was cited for releasing two huskies to the humane society without vet exams prior and yet 60 dogs were released to SCKR without any veterinary exams? Dr. Chico was going to look into this.  Who reviews the inspection reports? They are not reviewed by anyone other than the inspectors routinely.  How can you explain that the conditions of the dogs we took possession of does not match what is being described in the inspection reports? We explained the stench, matting, urine staining and feces stuck in the fur. When asked if they would find it acceptable, Dr. Smith and Dr. Chico both responded they would not. We indicated that we had time date stamped photographic evidence that contradicts the inspection reports. For example, dogs on site for a compliant inspection are in horrific condition when we take possession 3 days later. The attorney Scott Wyner asked us to provide some of that documentation. He indicated that it is difficult to revoke a license but that type of evidence would be helpful if it came to that.  Have either of you been to the kennel? Both responded no. Since they could not discredit what our reports were and we could not discredit their inspectors we asked if they would be willing to go take a personal look. They agreed. Dr. Chico was going to look over their schedules and see when they could go.  Please explain how one non-compliant inspection can cite cracked concrete and the next compliant one notes nothing and then it is noted as cracked again. This year their inspectors have begun carrying iPhones so they can photograph what is being cited. In the existing reports, there is no way to tell if what is cited is the same thing from one inspection to the next.  One inspection indicated that nine kennels have cracked concrete flooring and are not to be used until it is fixed. We asked where these dogs would have been kept since there is no notation that it was repaired. We told them we did not believe Marjorie had enough kennels for that many dogs not to be used. Dr. Chico was going to look into this. 7). What does it take to revoke a dealer’s license? It is very difficult to revoke a license. It is a very long process and involves a due process administrative hearing. There is also nothing that could keep her from reapplying if she lost it. In addition, if she lost the license it only means she cannot sell the dogs. It in no way precludes her from being able to keep them. Which does not help the dogs. Only through animal cruelty would the dogs be removed from her property and they would be under the care of the State at that time. We noted that the group has ample funding, foster homes, and is willing to take all of the remaining dogs at no cost to the State of New York. 8). It appears that there is a convoluted process for enforcement. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets does not have inhouse enforcement capabilities and rely on other groups who may have other standards or guidelines they follow so enforcement may not always follow what is expected. Below are very keen observations from and Zandra others in the group on the members of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets we met with. From a body language standpoint.  Dr. Chico was obviously the point person for their team. His open body posture indicated that he was open to hearing the concerns from our group of people. His tone of voice indicated that he respected what he was hearing and what we were trying to do. "You obviously are very savvy at using social media," was one of his comments and he said it with a smile and no sarcastic tone.  The lawyer, Mr. Wyner spent most of the time in a slightly bent forward position while writing notes on paper as concerns, issues, and personal experiences were shared. There were points where it was obvious that he was contemplating what was said similar to the way a person will contemplate where to place a puzzle piece as if to figure out how everything was fitting or not fitting together. I saw this a great deal when we talked about the inspections saying the dogs were fine and in good health but yet when they were pulled less than a week later, the dogs were horribly matted and smelled in such a way that it could not have occurred in less than 7 days. I also saw it again when the discussion about the head counts occurred and "how can you have 51 dogs still when 13 wear pulled in December?"  Dr. Smith was also bent forward, quiet, and taking many notes but his face was much more expressive in terms of being upset. I was not able to determine if he was angered (low simmer) at times by what was said or by the implications of what was being said. I think it was more of the implication because when asked if he was willing to go out to visit Marjorie's Kennels, he definitely wants to do that. There was a slight hesitation to his agreement but I saw a quick glance to Dr. Chico and the lawyer and when Dr. Chico agreed, he readily agreed and made a note shortly afterwards. There was one point when the discussion went towards the enforcement and his eyes went towards the ceiling like a silent: "This is the problem." It was also the same moment when they talked about the difficulties of when they pass situations off to the humane society and state police that it is then out of their hands. One additional point observed was bringing the dogs into the room for them to see. We kept talking about how bad the dogs at Marjorie’s are including the ones we pulled and then we bring calm, good-looking dogs for them to see. We note this because of the comments at the end by the vets who jokingly said they wished we could work with their dogs and how good and well-adjusted our dogs seemed. Of course, the dogs were tired from the earlier events but Jesse was the last one out having used their facilities and overheard them talking about how good the dogs looked and behaved. This could leave one to believe the dogs are not that bad because they have not been out that long.

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