This was sent to me. I do want to say that this participant used some common sense. I do hope she learned a valuable lesson at least.
And who wants to bet that Bett Sundermeyer in Houston probably is in agreement with these transports. Transports are a God send to "No Kill" because the motto is "outta sight, outta mind". Transports make it possible to be both for the "No Kill"ers.
I am writing this on behalf of the transport volunteers who gave of their time this past Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22, to get a dog named Soldier from Houston, TX to Augusta, GA. I drove the last leg, from Buckhead to Augusta, GA. It is critical that all transport volunteers, coordinators, and rescues hear my story. I am angry, bewildered, and saddened by this entire situation, as are the two transport volunteers who have worked with me in the aftermath to find out how this happened and determine a way to mitigate the damage. Although it was traumatic for me, I will try to give the facts in an unadorned fashion
The dog was being transported from a foster, where he had been for approx. 2 weeks after being pulled from BARC in Houston. His time had run out. Soldier arrived at BARC injured and with an embedded collar. He was given some vet care, but has obviously had a very hard life for such a young dog (my vet says he is approx. 1 year old). He was being transported on a moderated run by a reputable coordinator. The transport went well, he seemed to have a good overnight, and on Sunday afternoon, he made it to the last leg, which I drove. My job was to get him the last 80 miles and hand him off to the woman who was listed as the “temporary foster” on the run sheet. We had touched base by email and settled on a meeting place in Augusta, though she lived across the river in South Carolina.
When I met her, I immediately had a very, very bad feeling. She just seemed “wrong.” I have been transporting for about 5 years, and there were many red flags. For example, when I remarked that I was surprised he wasn’t neutered (the run sheet said the foster would have it done) she said she was surprised, too (if she was supposed to have it done, why was she surprised?). Soldier looks a bit like a pit mix, although it’s very hard to tell, and she said that when dogs with pitbull blood aren’t neutered by the age of 20 months, it’s “too late.” She said he looked much older than she expected. I said what did she mean, “too late,” and she said they’re “ruined, too aggressive, there’s nothing you can do.” Then I found out her full name, which is SHIRLEY BARNES. The name rang a bell, and not in a good way, but I couldn’t place it. I don’t know how to explain my feelings of dread. I very much wanted to find a way to hold onto him, because I felt she wasn’t right. However, to remove a dog from transport constitutes theft. I tried to tell myself I was just being paranoid. She put Soldier in a too-small crate in her van, and as she drove away, I had my daughter take down her license plate number: That’s how worried I was. On the way home (just a 10 min. drive from the handoff) I called the coordinator, but could not reach her. I left a message (which has never been returned) asking about the foster’s background.
At home, I ran into the house and Googled her name. It only took about 20 seconds to discover that she had been found guilty on nine animal welfare violations and that 24 dogs were impounded from her Aiken County home. Please see http://chronicle.augusta.com/
stories/2009/07/15/met_540974. shtml and http://www.aikenstandard.com/ story/0715barnes-trial
I felt hysterical inside and was kicking myself for not following my own “gut,” rather than procedure. I tried to contact the rescue in Texas that was listed on the run sheet, but got only the man who had fostered Soldier for the last two weeks. He was utterly bewildered and knew nothing about the foster arrangements, or even what state the foster lived in. I called the foster’s county sheriff's department, but they told me to call AC on Monday, the next day. Finally, I tried calling her, and didn't expect to reach her (the cell number she gave was a wrong number and she had told me a whole story about how hard it was to reach her by phone or email in her rural area) but by some miracle, she answered the other number. I told her that I'd absolutely fallen in love with Soldier and had called the rescue, who said I could adopt the dog right off the transport (no way would a reputable rescue allow that without an application). I really laid it on thick. Turned out, she hadn't left Augusta yet and agreed to meet me and let me "adopt" Soldier. When I went back to our handoff spot, I got him in my car and sat there for a while talking to her, trying to draw her out. She opened up and told me that she had gone down to Miami at Thanksgiving and brought up 26 dogs from the AC there. She said that she goes up to Greenville periodically to get 10, and "always ends up bringing back 20 or 25." She seems to believe she is really helping these dogs.A rescue friend of mine was able to overnight Soldier, because I have four rescued dogs of my own, one of whom is fear-aggressive, and the next day I took Soldier to my vet to be boarded and neutered, which is scheduled for tomorrow. I went to take him for a walk today, and he has a great spirit.
Here is what we have found out since Sunday:
1) The rescue under whose license the dog was pulled in Houston had no idea the license was used and has no knowledge of this dog. The founder lets one woman who does "street rescue" use her license, but insists on being kept in the loop. She knows nothing about the pull from BARC or the fact that it is her rescue's name Soldier was pulled under. She is supposed to be checking with that person to see if she did it on her own, but I haven’t heard. Bottom line: That rescue seems to have no interest in Soldier (though they may be legally bound to).
2) The foster in Texas who physically pulled the dog and kept him for two weeks IS affiliated with a legitimate rescue, but was only doing a favor and that rescue is not backing this dog, either. We have not heard from this gentleman since Sunday when all hell broke loose and he didn't like the tone of some of the back-and-forth on email. He says he has nothing to do with this, although he might be willing to take Soldier back, though he's "over quota."
3) The young woman who arranged everything through Facebook lives in Albany, NY, has never done this before, and is not affiliated with any rescue, nor did she apparently have plans for getting him adopted or moved up north to her. She is very apologetic about the whole situation and has offered to pay for his boarding and neuter. She apparently "met" the foster/hoarder, Shirley Barnes, on a FB page for animals from BARC and decided that, with Shirley's help, she could save this dog from death. She claims to have three references for Shirley, and that they were so good she made no arrangements for a home visit or checked her out with local AC, but she has yet to furnish those references to me, despite repeated requests. I now doubt that they exist. I also don’t know how she connected with the rescue under whose license Soldier was pulled (possibly the street rescue person was on FB, as well).4) The transport coordinator, who does many, many of these every month, is "reputable," though I and others have come to question how thoroughly she checks out the receiving rescue, etc. In this case, she apparently checked out the rescue of the foster in Texas, and everything came back good. However, that rescue, as you will recall, has no stake in Soldier and so its reputation is immaterial. Some of the drivers involved in this transport have driven for her dozens of times. Yet, she has been silent since Sunday, when she said she checked out the rescue.....and then said nothing more. Not a single call to find out how the dog is doing or what our plans are for him, now that he’s become largely our responsibility.
5) I have spoken to law enforcement and AC in Aiken and Edgefield counties about Shirley Barnes. I initially thought—silly me!—that they would act on this information (primarily what she said about bringing in dozens of dogs) by getting a warrant and going on her property to see if there was a hoarding situation. She is under court order in Aiken County not to own or keep dogs at her house. However, I discovered that because she has moved from Aiken County, where she was convicted, to Edgefield County, a rural county which has no animal welfare laws, we can't go after her hoarding directly. This is why we are trying to find out everything we can about her methods (hence, all my phone calls to Texas, etc.) so we can try to cut off her access to animals. One of my fellow transporters has called the Greenville AC (where Shirley said she gets dogs) and has alerted them. This FB “Note” is the first step in getting the word out about Shirley Barnes, but also about what can go wrong when people don’t “do rescue right.”
Transport coordinators need to DEMAND answers to their questions and confirm that the people involved are in good standing with their local animal controls. A simply Google search is a start. Transport drivers need to be sure the coordinators and rescues involved have done their due diligence….imagine ending up with a dog you hadn’t planned on caring for because people dropped the ball! Or imagine being in the situation of handing over a dog to someone who makes you fear for the dog’s safety. One minute, you’re feeling good about helping, and the next minute, you’re faced with an ethical dilemma and possible heartbreak. People who want to help, but have no experience, should start with their local shelter or licensed rescue. People in the North (where I’m from) need not assume that only the animals of the Deep South require your assistance. Act locally! Animal rescue has a steep learning curve and you should start small. Finally, all rescues MUST check out their fosters THOROUGHLY! Shirley Barnes may come off as a sweet grandma to someone who doesn’t know what questions to ask. ASK QUESTIONS and CONFIRM THE INFORMATION. The sad truth is that animal rescue attracts some unbalanced people. While we may feel sympathy for them, THE ANIMALS COME FIRST. Please share this. Thanks.