Help Save Memphis

(I have reposted this from the Patrick Miracle Facebook Page)
It’s a long way to MEMPHIS.
by The Patrick Miracle on Friday, August 17, 2012 at 11:12am ·

On August 16, 2012, the Bloomfield, NJ Board of Health held their monthly meeting at which the matter of MEMPHIS, a stray Pit Bull mix, was the main subject. I pesonally counted just over 100 spectators in attendance, including Bloomfield Animal Shelter staff, Jeff and Diana Coltenbeck, Allison of Prayers for Patrick, and numerous others. About 15-20 members of the public chose to speak at the meeting. NONE of them were there in opposition to Pit bulls, nor Memphis specifically, nor Jeff. Several of those that spoke were amazingly articulate and informed, and there were several times they, and audience members sobbed openly- including Jeff as he spoke.

Following the public comments, the board had their private discussion on the matter, interrupted numerous times by spectators interjecting their own comments- sometimes with a valid point, and a few times just to belittle the statements made by board members (a little less of that would help our side).

After hearing everyone, I of course have thoughts on this situation.

The reasoning being used by the board is inherently flawed.

One man on the board said their concern was with public safety- essentially, the risk of attack Memphis represented…even going so far as to illustrate this point by asking the audience how they would feel if “a child’s face was ripped off” by Memphis. That last part is what you call pandering and fear-mongering, especially since Memphis has not so much as nipped any human, even when provoked by evaluators.

This would only be a quasi-reasonable concern with a truly erratic, violent dog- which Memphis has proven repeatedly he is not.

The board member further stated that the Bloomfield Animal Shelter has only killed two dogs for non-health reasons- those being aggression related. In both cases, the dogs had actually bitten humans. Again, Memphis has bitten no one.

The same man, in response to the public’s statements supporting Jeff’s expertise in evaluating Memphis, stated the following- “No one can say with absolute certainty that any specific dog will never bite.” If that is his belief, why take St. Hubert’s word for anything?

I’ll go a step further and say EVERY dog WILL bite if driven to it. All life will fight to survive, given no other option.

So in these few statements, we have a fairly clear position and standard operating procedure all laid out:

  • The Board of Health is concerned about public safety when deciding if a dog can be adopted.
  • The Shelter only kills dogs that have bitten (or are irrepairably ill or injured).
  • No one is able to say with 100% certainty that a dog will never bite.

Applying these criteria to Memphis’ case, we can say this:

The Shelter has adopted out many dogs and cats that have bitten people after adoption. Several such cases were related by the owners of those animals at this meeting.

  • Memphis was captured while running stray. He attacked no one while running free, during his time in the shelter, during his week with Jeff, nor during his evaluations at St. Hubert’s.
  • The Board of Health puts faith in St. Hubert’s evaluations while stating NOBODY can say with certainty a dog won’t ever bite.

So nobody knows for sure, and the shelter has only killed dogs that bit people. Exactly why then is Memphis being made an exception? Well, they flatly denied several times at this meeting that Memphis’ breed had anything to do with their decision making regarding him. Really?

From Jeff: “Contrary to what the BOH said about breed not being an issue, the Health Department sent me an email stating that breed is an issue.”

The main problem of this entire matter is that we have authorities making decisions on matters they have no experience or expertise in. A town lawyer should not be wrting the criteria for how a dog should be trained. Here’s a great example:

Jeff was given the task of re-training Memphis, presumably by a board that believed he had the experience and expertise to accomplish the task. But the board’s lawyer went about drafting a contract that the board claims laid out specific things Jeff could and could not do with the dog. This lawyer is not a dog trainer. His expertise is in limiting the town’s exposure to liability (a factor the board claimed last night was NOT part of their decision making).

 

 So, Jeff is given the dog in the hope he can rehabilitate it enough to be trustworthy around humans… but the board claims (falsely) that the contract stated he can’t have the dog around other humans. It is for violating that non-existent criteria that Memphis was ordered returned by Jeff…which Jeff did anyway. But if we make believe that criteria did exist (and it didn’t), this is like learning to swim without water. It’s this logical disconnect that shows the board and their lawyer should not be making decisions about dog behavior, as they have no understanding of it themselves.

From Jeff: “Contrary to the Health Department’s position, there were NO restrictions in the contract that said I could not socialize Memphis during my training with him. Every single interaction Memphis had with my friends and family (not the general public) were controlled and with the permission of each individual. Memphis was NOT paraded around the public like it is being portrayed as. The town attorney and the health department were well aware, BEFORE I SIGNED THE CONTRACT, that I had friends and family available to help me with Memphis. The general public was not exposed to Memphis in close proximity. In fact, the few times I saw a passerby while on a walk with Memphis, I would cross the street for Memphis’s safety and the safety of the general population.

As for St.Hubert’s being tasked with evaluating a Pit Bull-type dog’s behavior, there is simply no reason to consider their evaluations as anything but extremely biased. Despite their publicized policy on Pit Bull-type dogs, they rarely allow them to be adopted once surrendered to them. Allowing them to judge Memphis shows the board is either completely ignorant of St. Hubert’s prejudices, or is intentionally seeking only those views that support killing Memphis because the board shares that prejudice (they deny this).

From Jeff: “The St. Hubert’s evaluation is what the Health Department kept saying is the reason Memphis needs “rehabilitation” and is un-adoptable. They said that 8 days (Memphis’ time with us) is not nearly enough time to sufficiently come to any conclusions. Yet, a 30 minute or 1 hour evaluation IS enough time to deem a dog unadoptable?

And just what is a “professional behavior evaluation” like at St. Hubert’s?

“We then had a male kennel worker come in to greet [the canine] in a friendly matter,”according to a report by Pia Silvani, vice president of training and behavior at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison. The report did not indicate who the man was.

“[The dog] did exhibit friendly behavior towards the gentleman. I then asked the same man to walk out and come back in wearing a hood and reprimand the dog to see what his reaction would be to someone who was stern. Memphis became quite agitated and lunged up in an offensive, aggressive manner.”

Let me get this straight: Memphis responded fine to a total stranger approaching him in a friendly manner, but when a HOODED man approached in a threatening manner, Memphis rose to defend himself and perhaps his handler?… and this was considered a WRONGreaction?!? I’ll bet Ms. Silvani would reconsider that grade if her dog did this in a dark alley when approached the same way. *I* would have bought Memphis a steak for that reaction! This is what St. Hubert’s considers a proper, expert evaluation???

Jeff said:“My offer (offered on August 1st) to the HD to continue working with Memphis at the shelter (during non-public hours), after we returned him, was not relayed to the BOH. Initially, the Health department said I could continue to the work I was doing, only at the shelter. Once I returned Memphis to the shelter, they reneged and said I couldn’t.”

I’ll bet I know precisely who on the board has pushed for St.Hubert’s to be the evaluators as, despite her best but feeble acting attempts, she showed herself to be wholly against allowing Memphis any further opportunity to redeem himself… tho she feigned grudging support for allowing Memphis one more chance when she saw the rest of the board supported the idea and wouldn’t accept her repeated assertions that the dog had already been given more chances than any other.

So what is Memphis’ behavior like?

From Jeff: “Diana and I and our close friends, are the only ones who have any data whatsoever with regards to how Memphis is outside of the shelter. Karen Lore, herself, said last night that they have no information about his past, only his behavior while at the shelter. We, on the otherhand, do have additional information that is not being considered.”

Well, it appears that while at both shelters- Bloomfield and St.Huberts- Memphis showed behavior considered ‘dangerous’ in some way. And while at Jeff’s home, Memphis displayed no such behavioral issues from the first day to the last, interacting with various animals and humans with no issues.

Now, if nobody lied, and these reports are accurate, I see the problem here pretty clearly. I suspect, before saying it, that most of my fellow animal lovers see it as very obvious. But for the two shelter staffs, the board and the lawyers, it would seem not quite as obvious… and it is hubris that blinds them to it- the belief that they know better, and all dissent is misinformed.

For them, I’ll make it easy: Memphis is unable to tolerate shelters.

Shelters reek of death and fear, loneliness and even abuse. Dogs are not stupid. They know they are in a dangerous place. They’ve been backed into the corner of life, and with no ability to flee, they will fight. Some may break and cower. But the stronger dogs are not ready to give up, and will challenge those that challenge them. It is entirely predictable. That anyone would be shocked by such a response, or hold it against a living being to fight to escape such a place shows how disconnected they are from the animals they are entusted to care for- to SHELTER.

Knowing what the real problem is also makes the solution easy to see:

Put Memphis into a home-like environment, allow him the time to trust the person caring for him (as in someone that actually cares about him, not just a feeder and walker)… and then re-evaluate him THERE, where he is in his comfort zone. And that evaluation must be done differently. Nobody that has previously given him a shelter-based eval should be part of the next eval, as the dog will recognize that person’s scent, and will associate them with the fear and fight-or-flight reaction he had then, so he’ll repeat his reactions out of distrust and experience. No fake arm taking his food away. Stay out of the room and watch as Jeff takes the bowl away with his bare hand. The dog KNOWS the hand is fake, and that it is not supposed to be there. Use of such tools is provacation to force the desired negative reaction. Want the dog safe around people? It must be allowed to interact with people. Cardboard cut outs and mannequin arms are not people. Memphis is not fooled anymore than you and I would be.

At the end of the meeting, the decision was made to locate another trainer to take Memphis for a longer period of time, and once that trainer decides Memphis is ready to be re-evaluated, he shall be… and his fate will rest on that.

From Jeff: “The most compelling thing about the BOH meeting last night was when the health officer mentioned to the board about getting a 3rd party evaluator for Memphis. I offered that to them over a week ago and said I’d pay for it. The NJ SPCA also said they would pay for it. That offer was declined by the Health Department. We had Jim Crosby, renowned behaviorist and evaluator from Florida, lined up to eval Memphis. And the HD said no thanks.

If the Board’s criteria for retraining is to include no contact with humans, and the evaluation will again be done by St. Huberts, it is a foregone conslusion that Memphis will fail. It will be a set-up- a trap- geared toward forcing Memphis to fail. You cannot ask him to trust humans when he is not allowed to interact with them as a routine. And having prejudiced persons judging his behavior at a fear-inducing location means no matter what the progress he makes with a trainer, he will again be forced to react out of fear… and they will then kill him.

The definition of insantiy is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

~John

———————————————————————————————————————-

 

AUGUST 17, 2012 UPDATE!! – 

Those suggesting Bloomfield, NJ’s Board of Health was behaving like Belfast, NI’s City Council are quite correct after all! Today Jeff was visited by Bloomfield POLICE!

Jeff said: “The cops were here again. They suggested I tell you to please stop emailing the township of Bloomfield about Memphis. Thank you.”

Did the Board of Health lose Jeff’s phone number? Why did they not conact him directly to ask that he publicly request that the eMails stop being sent to them?

The ONLY reason the POLICE would personally visit Jeff to deliver this message is to intimidate him into backing off about Memphis. THAT is an abuse of powers by the town, and the Mayor of Bloomfield should be made aware- and if no one is to be publicly admonished for such an *illegal* bullying tactic, the State Attorney General should be informed to investigate the actions of all involved.

We should not be made to fear our representatives. They are supposed to fear us. And we have the RIGHT to contact our representatives when we see fit. That’s why their contact information is REQUIRED to be made public.

So, to reiterate, the Bloomfield Police paid a visit to Jeff to ask him to ask you not to contact the Board of Health… at the following eMail addresses:

health@bloomfieldtwpnj.com; mfitzpatrick@bloomfieldtwpnj.com;klore@bloomfieldtwpnj.com; njoanow@bloomfieldtwpnj.com; pdunigan@bloomfieldtwpnj.com;law@bloomfieldtwpnj.com; brian@aloialawfirm.com; courts@bloomfieldtwpnj.com

You may also wish to not contact the Mayor directly about the misuse of Police personnel and assets to intimidate residents and business owners at rbrown@bloomfieldtwpnj.com

And if you ever need to contact New Jersey’s State Attorney General for any reason at all, you can use the webform at:

http://www.nj.gov/lps/formmail.htm

 

 

 I think John of the Patrick Miracle has stated it all quite clearly. I have little to add except we must speak up. We need to remember Lennox in Belfast and keep fighting against these injustices. It is Breed Specific Legislation whether these politicians own up to it or not.-Jen

 

PETITION: HELP US HELP MEMPHIS – BE HIS VOICE

To: Bloomfield Township, NJ Board of Health

Petition to allow The Coltenback’s to adopt Memphis.If the welfare of Memphis is truly the ultimate goal, there is absolutely no reason Memphis should remain in the shelter one more day. A loving, experienced, breed savvy family is pleading with the township to bring Memphis back home forever.
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