Friday, November 4, 2011

A Story about the Abuse of Power....

I was recently asked why I have such a distaste for an animal welfare organization in Des Moines, Iowa. It was by a friend, so I know that they were truly seeking an understanding of the situation. They know me well, and know that I take pride in finding both sides of an issue.  I have proven time and time again I'm able to work side by side with those I may disagree as long as we are both focused on the same goals at the end.

I've been told more than once that I have a "passion" for animals. That may be true, but it's not my passion for animals that causes me to speak out for the injustice that is happening to animals inside the animal welfare industry. I don't really care who you support as long as you are doing it knowledgeably. Statistics have proven that marketing and media is a very powerful tool. Too many people believe what they hear without researching the facts. If they would ask more questions, I know they would find the same discrepancies I did, which pulled me towards my advocacy for animals.

Being involved in animal welfare I have learned a great deal, that I never would have known as a single pet owner. I am a responsible pet owner, spay and neuter my pets, regular vet visits, and when that hard day comes, I hold my companions to sleep. Even in the hardest of times, surrendering my companion was never an option. From that perspective I would and did feel that the Animal Rescue League of Iowa was a reputable organization that cares about the animals. I was wrong!

It wasn't until I entered the industry when I realized how deceptive this organization really is, and how manipulative they are at tugging at the heart strings of pet lovers everywhere, professing their love for animals, when in fact, the animal is the last on their list to care for. This is not to say that there are not caring individuals inside the ARL or animal lovers. But the overall philosophy and practices of the ARL are NOT animal loving or even first in animal welfare in my book. Here's just one incident I can share with you from first hand experience...I hope if for nothing else, it opens your eyes that what you 'see' may not be what is by the ARL, and that you research more carefully before offering your support.

One Sunday this pass July, Josh Colvin from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa's Animal Control left a message on RVAS' answering machine regarding a dog, Stuart, that had been picked up by AC. The dog was microchipped and apparently the chip traced back to Raccoon Valley (an adoption prior to my days with the organization). The registered own on the chip did not match the person who was trying to 'claim' the dog from the ARL Animal Control Building. Josh was calling for our PERMISSION to release the dog to this unknown owner. While I appreciated the call for permission...I did not understand the next part.

Despite our repeated efforts and numerous emails and letters to the ARL giving them our emergency number for such cases, especially when we are closed to business, I picked up the message on Monday. I immediately telephoned Josh and told him that we did not want the dog released to an "unknown" owner, and that we would reclaim the dog since it was property of RVAS (the microchip was implanted and owned by RVAS). Josh refused to give us the dog. Apparently he would release it to an unknown entity, but not to a state licensed rescue where the dog's adoption originated? That doesn't make sense.

When questioned about his decision, at first, he stumbled around throwing out the "rules" and "regulations" of the AC department being contracted with the City of Des Moines. When asked what has changed because a couple weeks prior we had no problem having a "cat" released from them that was picked up with a chip that traced back to RVAS. There was no answer. When reminded that we have a contractual agreement between Tom Colvin and RVAS that we would respect each other's adoption contracts and return animals, when proof is available, to each other's organizations. He refused. Despite the many attempts to gain an understanding from Josh what the "new" rules were that he was making up on the spot, he became frustrated and hung up on me with the simple statement, "I"m not releasing the dog to you.!"

Whether his temper tantrum was personal or professional, I must admit that I chuckled at the behavior, even though I was extremely annoyed with his lack of concern for the dogs welfare. This is a man with one of the longest titles in the animal welfare industry, that for some reason, had the need to be in "control" of a situation, he truly had no control over. A simple and quick telephone call to Tom Colvin, Executive Director and Josh's father, explaining the situation prompted immediate release of the dog to RVAS. We then made arrangements for pick up. Needless to say Josh was extremely rude and annoyed that he had been over-ridden.

The mere fact that the dog, remained in the kennel 24 hours longer than it needed to, was released with kennel cough, because it had been there at least 5 days prior to Josh even calling us, and that the AC could not provide any vaccination or medical history upon it's arrival proves that animal care was last on Josh Colvin's or the Animal Control Services priorities.

In this situation, and many others, the ARL has proven time and time again to be uncooperative to those organizations that may not show the type of support they would like. They also have proven they do not know the difference between a "vicious" dog and an 8 lb scared chihuahua, a feral cat or a scared stray, and refuse to work with people they simply "don't like", despite their so-called credentials in the industry. To not be able to put your personal feelings aside for someone for the sake of the animal is more disturbing to me and clearly proves they are not "about" the animals, but instead about personal choices. This type of behavior hardly fits in my book as "professional" or "caring".

The bottom line. The ARL is a family run business, that in fact, has done some great things for animals. But their lack of transparency with their intake numbers, their plea for constant funding without disclosing what it is used for, the staff's high paid salaries, and the proof that animals are not their priority is why I no longer support the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. If animals WERE their priority, then Stuart wouldn't have been residing on a cement kennel, with no water for over 4 hours, and released immediately to the shelter with vaccination records and in good condition, not with kennel cough.

Instead, Stuart's life became at risk, because of one man's inability to deal with someone he doesn't "like". If this is the life-saving decision making that the Animal Control Executive uses than no wonder so many animals are killed in the hands of the ARL's Executives.

And by the way, the contract with the city had nothing to do with the reason Josh held and kept the dog from RVAS. Josh Colvin is known for his inability to work with women and many other shelter and rescue workers have had similar problems working with him. All I can say is that I'm glad that Tom Colvin had the sense to let that dog be released. Stuart has since then found a new home. And the owner that wanted to claim it originally? She inherited the dog after it was abandoned by the original owner. She loved the dog enough to save it's life, and even more to let it go to the right home. Stuart has a new home, where he can run off that high energy, snuggles with his owners and lives happily ever after!

But no person or organization should have to fight this hard for a life, especially when they hold the same credentials as the ARL. There was no excuse for Josh's behavior other than his own perception that he's something bigger than he is. His actions show the consistent abuse of power and control that the ARL uses towards other rescues (and individuals) to place themselves in a more supreme position, all at the cost of an animal's life.

That is just one small reason why I personally am not a supporter of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. I'm not fearful to speak out about my experience with an organization that makes no effort to make things right or admit when they are wrong. They can not hurt me, nor am I fearful that they may try. The only power the ARL still has are those animals that wind up in their care. If they continue to make life decisions for animals based on what people they like, they will continue to prove my point...and many others...that their concern for animal welfare is, at best, non-existent.

They have had numerous chances to make things right with me and with RVAS. I'm still waiting for an apology from Josh Colvin not only for bring rude, hanging up on me, but for his deceptive reasoning behind the release of Stuart. But I'm not holding my breath to get one....

In the meantime, I will speak out about my personal experience with a man that was unable to handle a situation professionally, instead resorting to rude behavior to justify his lack of respect for me and RVAS. What class!


  1. Well said. I was there and it all happened just as you described. I only met Josh twice and really don't know the man well enough to render any sort of professional opinion. That being said, I'm sure that working for your father is no easy task, especially one who has established himself so strongly in the community. Tom casts a long shadow. Although I cringe at the thought of the younger Colvin someday taking over the family business. Hate to say it, but he's not half the man his father is.

  2. Well professional isn't hanging up because you don't have the answers. The problem is, he was making it up and he knew I knew it. He became exasperated and hung up. He's done this to others, I heard later, as well. I hope he doesn't handle the animals with the same tact.

  3. I have heard of numerous problems involving the ARL, in particular, their behavior with regard to the Story City Cats, which were "rescued" from a hoarding situation only to face euthanasia for most of them by the ARL when other people and agencies had homes and situations waiting for them. Too many organizations put pride and money and "efficiency" above the animal that should be at the heart of the matter. For RVAS, the animal comes first. For the ARL, not so much.

  4. VERY well stated! The biggest problem is that such practices go on all over the country. Sadly the animal/s do not come first; often it's the almighty $ which is just wrong any way I look at it! Shelters and rescues should all be working together for the good of the animal; it's not a competition.

    Thanks so much for stressing that people do their homework on who they support. They are not all the same and people need to know this.

    Mamma T