Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An Animal "Rescue"Story Gone Wrong

News Channel 8's reporting of the August 4th “rescue “of well over 50 felines from a home in Story City is yet another demonstration of excellent media manipulation and management by "Iowa's largest animal shelter," the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.

Perhaps rescue was the reporter’s poor choice of words. For what actually occurred that day in Story City was a mass execution of innocent animals coordinated and sanctioned by the very people who profess by their own Mission Statement “
To promote animal welfare, the human animal bond, and prevent the overpopulation of pets.”

So, what really happened?

Had TV 8’s Angie Hunt dug a little deeper she would have discovered a few, not so flattering, but significant facts as to what was actually occurring instead of just taking the ARL’s word for it.  The only accurate portion of her story was that the individual who lived in the home with more than an estimated 50 cats did indeed ask for help, but only after an intervention was initiated by members of her family.  Since Story City does not have an ordinance limiting the number of pets a resident may have; and there were no complaints from her neighbors about wandering animals or odors, it was evident that no crime was being committed.  However, to the credit of Story City Police Chief Brian Haffner, it was obvious that unless something was done to help this person, sooner or later the community could be dealing with a more serious problem.  Not having either the experience or resources to tackle the situation, Chief Haffner did what any good leader would do, he asked for help.

After contacting several area shelters who declined to take responsibility for removing the cats from the home, the police department finally connected with the Colvins at the ARL who agreed to create a removal team and coordinate a “rescue.”  The “TEAM” recruited by the ARL included local veterinarian Dr. Brenda Bright, DVM,  two additional veterinarians and a number of students from Iowa State University, Sue McCaskey of Story County  Animal Shelter and finally, Dr.Lisa Deppe, DVM from Jewell, Iowa.

On August 4, 2010 those individuals and other volunteers converged in Story City and proceeded to set up operations to remove the estimated 50 plus cats from the residence.  According to eyewitness accounts, the veterinary staff had established an on-site triage to evaluate each animal as it was brought out of the home.  As more animals were recovered from the house, it became obvious to Dr. Deppe that virtually every rescued cat was being lined up to be put down.  When Dr. Deppe approached Dr. Bright, the Veterinarian  in charge, and stated that there was no need to euthanize these animals because she, (Dr. Deppe), had arranged for housing, medical care and eventual re-homing for all of the cats at no expense to either the City or the previous owner,  Dr. Bright responded with a simple NO!  When Dr. Deppe asked why not?  Dr. Bright’s curt response was, “because I said so.”

A visibly upset and shaken Dr. Deppe then approached the ARL’s Tom and Josh Colvin who were observing and asked them as Team Leaders and coordinators of this alleged rescue that they intervene and allow her to save those animals from being needlessly killed.  After all, didn’t they recruit her to do just that? Wasn’t this supposed to be a rescue?

They refused.

Dr. Deppe did finally persuade Dr. Bright into allowing her to save only 12 cats from the slaughter that continues yet today.  Remember, there were an estimated 50 plus cats in the home when this all started over a week ago and not all have been recovered. There are still more inside that the so called, “rescuers” are attempting to capture with baited traps.  Those that are caught soon join their departed brethren for apparently, there’s no mercy for these innocent animals at Dr. Bright’s Veterinary Clinic and definitely no rescue awaiting them at the ARL.

Obviously, the question is… what’s more tragic, the unnecessary deaths of so many blameless animals or the apathy of those who sanction and condone their pointless destruction when the means to their survival was standing in front of them, pleading for their lives?

As for Dr. Brenda Bright, DVM, she has to live with her conscience and the consequences of her ego driven decisions.  On the other hand, what’s another 30 or 40 cats euthanized to the ARL when, by their own admission, they routinely destroy approximately 10,000 animals a year?  That’s an average of nearly 30 a day, so it’s no surprise that after 84 years of euthanasia-mania, ARL’s management might become just a bit jaded over the prospect of overseeing the disposal of a few more cats.  It’s something most everyone in the Iowa press corps knows and yet for some reason, elects not to disclose.

Grab your Thesaurus and look up the synonyms for the word rescue.  No matter how you look at what happened on August 4
th in Story City, rescuing those animals was clearly not on the participants’ agenda!  Unless of course, killing them was just an alternate means of “setting them free.”
In view of this mindset, perhaps the Animal Rescue League should be more appropriately known as the Animal Removal League.

In a world where the press whips the public into justifiable outrage over a kitten found in a dumpster, how News Channel 8 and the rest of us can so easily buy into the ARL’s marketing hype and close our eyes to the truth is probably because we don’t want to know the truth about what really goes on behind the scenes.  It’s too ugly.  It’s just a lot easier to accept the ARL’s fairy tales because… they do make up good ones.

Instead of blindly taking their word for it, TV 8’s Angie Hunt could have reported the real story.

We could do better by demanding that they do.
Here's what YOU can Do.
  • Know who you support. It does make a difference.
  • If the story looks suspicious, it usually is. Write the news director and editor and ask if all sources were confirmed and are they available for questions.
  • Don't accept candy coated numbers from your local shelters. Demand proof. 
  • Demand that your local shelters/rescue look for solutions other than euthanasia.
  • Let your voice be heard. Comment on the articles. Your comments and your voice can be the education to another person.
  • Crosspost. Share this article with friends, families and co-workers. By crossposting, you can save another animal's life from being placed in the care of organizations that do not use life-saving techniques despite what their mission says.
  • Understand that situations that were described as above are more often than not are caused by mental illness. Have compassion for those who do not understand when "enough is enough".
References of facts:

Dr. Lisa Deppe's eye witness account can be found in her article, Cutting Through the Red Tape.

We thank those involved who took the time to talk to us and give us their eye witness accounts of the events to help us separate "fact" from "fluff".


  1. This is such a tragedy. I have pulled all of my support from the ARL. I feel like I now have blood on my hands as I have supported them for years.

    They have the beautiful new building, too. I'm am simply disgusted.

    Thank you Dr. Deppe and RVAS for stepping up and telling the facts. I can't imagine Dr. Deppe how you must be feeling so helpless. Please don't. By telling your story, those babies did not die in vain.

  2. This was and is inexcusable! I am so sickened and yes infuriated by the 'cats are disposable' attitude of almost all involved in this fiasco. The only one who advocated for these cats was Dr Deppe and her courage in coming forward to tell the story that otherwise wouldn't have been heard is commendable. Too often this gets swept under the rug, but not this time! It is time to stop the killing and end the archaic and barbaric mindset that killing is kindness. Killing is killing..period!

  3. How is it possible that they can get away with this? I mean aren't they supposed to be about saving lives?

    Were these cats diseased or so sick that they couldn't be saved? Aren't there laws that stop these types of decisions? I just can't fathom that the ARL would allow this many cats to be killed without even "trying" to save them? Did they not have a place to go?

    I read where the vet would take them, but could she handle 30 cats? Please someone help me understand how the ARL could be responsible for this.

  4. Anonymous:

    We'll try and answer your questions. There were no laws broken.

    Yes they are a shelter and yes they say that they take in (saved) 19,000 lives last year. But they couldn't save 30 cats.

    There was no testing done on these so they wouldn't know if they were diseased or not, they didn't even try. They went there to destroy them not to save them.

    That's exactly what they ARL and other traditional shelters "want" you to think. That they are not killing machines but life saving ones. Don't be fooled. They kill over 56% of the animals they take in.

    Tragically these cats DID have a place to go but the ARL and Dr. Bright denied an equally qualified vet to take them. Dr. Deppe realized once she was denied that she had not been asked to be there as a "rescue" assistant, but as a "killer". She refused.

    The Vet is a licensed shelter and she had other shelters and rescues standing by. In short the cats didn't have to die. It was cheaper to kill them to save them.

    The family agreed to pay for their euthanasia. So money is why they died.

  5. I am very upset by this. I am a animal lover not just of cats. We dont have a shelter in our town so when we find a animal roaming around we take it into our home and contact Sheriff's office and file a report. The cops always knows if someone is missing a animal to call us first to see if we have found. I do not understand what is wrong with this state. Animals should be given a chance to be happy and live a long life. They should not be sent anywhere but a Vet then onto a happy home if they are healthy. Why just kill them?!?!?!?! I will never do business or refer anyone to this shelter again that is for sure

  6. Thank you for SAVING lives. This is exactly how a small group of people can make a big difference. The best place to hurt people is in the wallet. When people support organizations and businesses they support their philosophies.

    This is not speculation. This is not hatred. This story is based on facts. And that's what is truly sad....

    Thank you for supporting those lives that were lost that day...and are sitting in traps as we speak unaware they will die tomorrow. :(

  7. So let me get this straight.

    No laws were broken by anyone? Not by the hoarders? Not by those who euthanized the cats. In other words 50 cats were just snagged out of this home and killed?

    This makes no sense. What kind of people live there?

  8. Penny WilliamsAugust 11, 2010

    So who is going to write the expose on these people? This is simply inexcusable. If no laws were broken, then laws need to be made. And that can't be done unless this whole, dirty story is splashed everywhere, by reputable media.

  9. Penny,

    You are absolutely right. There is a law actually and different versions have been passed already in California and Delaware. It targets shelter practices like the ARL and makes it illegal for them to refuse qualified licensed shelters, rescues and vets from saving lives.

    Read about it here. This is a great start for Iowa...and something we feel is necessary.

    This type of shelter practice has been going on for a long time. But the timing is right. The ARL just completed a 10 MILLION dollar new facility, and the mere fact that they are still asking for public funding to pay their bills but couldn't find space for these animals is inexcusable.

    Here's the bill:

  10. Anonymous:

    You are correct. No laws WERE broken. The mindset of the ARL and Vet that killed the cats is definitely wrong, but it's not a crime.

    Since the owners surrendered the cats and signed the proper "release" form, they relinquished all rights of the animals to the vet.

    What was clever on the ARL's part, was that they had the VET take ownership of the cats even though they were in charge of the rescue. This kept their "hands" off of the responsibility of the cats. In other words the vet can take the fall for this all by herself.

    What we DO know is that about 86% of the cats taken from the residence were killed.

  11. Tammy HartwigAugust 11, 2010

    I believe that the people of Iowa owe Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary a standing ovation and a HUGE thank you!! THANK YOU RVAS for NOT turning a blind eye when so many others did, for investigating and finding out the facts and, for sharing these facts openly! Thanks also for not allowing this tale to be swept under the rug to be forgotten. This ugly truth needed to be told and you have done so not by playing on public sympathy and tugging at heart strings, which this most definitely does but, by getting the word out factually about what REALLY happened that day and, who allowed it to happen.

    Having been a part of the animal welfare industry for years, it truly and deeply saddens me that so many respected members & organizations in this same industry have totally forgotten the word "WELFARE". These are people who are supposed to protect the innocent and BE their voice, not silence it. Had this been dogs in this residence there would be much more outrage regarding these actions. While I foster and rehabilitate dogs only, a cats life is no less important than a dog. ALL life is sacred and we are to protect and save all that we can. These were not just a bunch of cats, which often is the mind set of much of the public. These were precious, innocent lives that deserved saving and the chance for a better life every bit as much as if they had been high blood line purebred dogs.

    One question that I have not found an answer too is, how is the owner of these cats who loved them enough to trying give them a better life, doing with the news of what truly went on that day?

    Again, thank you RVAS for not letting this go unheard!

    Tammy Hartwig

  12. THere is just something too fishing about what you are saying. I think we are only hearing one side of this story and before I condemn a very excellent vet in Story City I want to hear more actually facts...not just statements given to you by one persons take on the entire ordeal. Give me more eye witness accounts before I fall for all of this story!!!!

  13. Anonymous,

    We did go "fishing" and "actually" confirmed facts contained in this story from "multiple" sources.

  14. I'd like to respond to the accusation made by Anonymous above that there is something fishy (I'm assuming that is what you meant to say). You obviously know and/or a client of Dr. Bright.

    I have read this article and the article on KCCI.com. I also visited Dr. Deppe's blog. To assume that I, as an individual, am too ignorant to reach a conclusion on my own is insulting.

    I appreciate your loyalty to Dr. Bright. The concern I have through all of this is that cats died and there was a place and/or person who offered to save them but she was denied her right to do so. If you can dispute these facts, please do. It would ease my heart to know that 3 dozen cats WERE NOT killed, and that they were given a CHANCE to survive.

    We'd appreciate any insight you have, and I'm sure that Raccoon Valley would too.

    Mae F.
    (I had to select anonymous because I don't have an email account with google)

  15. Anonymous

    We know how many were "marked" for euthanasia. The EXACT numbers of WHO was killed apparently is also caught in the "red tape".

    We have asked for these from both Dr. Bright and the ARL. We have either not received a response or they could not produce those numbers.

    The 3 dozen came from the news report on KGAN. They interviewed the shelters ready to receive and Dr. Deppe, an eye witness to the accounts on that day.

    If you can dispute these numbers we welcome concrete evidence to do so.

  16. I saw this on facebook. I have always accepted that some animals will have to die, and probably one of those people who look the other way because I can't bear to think of it.

    This story is heartbreaking. I am wondering why the vet or the ARL would not release those numbers if this information was not accurate? I would not think they would want any speculation of this magnitude out there...it can only harm them, right?

    The tragedy is that any cats died at all. They are the victims. They did not ask to be in the home. I imagine they were put there by this sick individual.

    They did not ask to be rescued. And unless they were suffering, they did not ask to die.

    After reading all of the information that is out there, I can't imagine that there isn't some actual truth in what these folks are saying. It turns my stomach to think that the ARL would not even try to save a life.

    And when asked for some verification they choose to ignore? I try not to be a person who speculates, but it is appearing they are either "guilty" or scrambling to get answers.

    Either way, that proves it was a botched situation and probably cats didn't need to die.

    It's a shame.

  17. Sent via email to RVAS:

    I wanted to share this on your blog. I posted this on facebook on the Animal Rescue League's site under some disparaging comments against those of you who have come forward. I wanted to share this on the blog as well. Could you please get it posted for me? I'm having problems getting it to post.

    Wow! I just read the stuff above. I am an animal lover and have supported those who help them. After reading all of the stuff I have to agree with Elizabeth. I'm an educated person. I am able to make informed decisions. I do not and will not blindly follow anyone so it's disheartening to read some of the comments above.

    I think it's not only honorable that Dr. Deppe stepped forward, but it's her obligation. And the ARL and the other vet have the same obligation. If someone's actions are questioned, then there should be questions asked...and answers given.

    Why are people so quickly to condemn those that are brave enough to stand alone to do right? I'm not saying either side is right or wrong, but there ARE two sides to the story...and since Dr. Deppe and those who have joined the investigation are the only ones doing the talking, what are we supposed to do? Ignore it and hope it goes away?

    I will support those who have concerns and the courage to tell those concerns. If the ARL can give information that puts those concerns to rest for me, then they will continue to get my support. If they say nothing, then I will support those who respect me enough to answer questions when I ask. My financial support to any organization gives me the right to ask questions.

    So ARL, please step forward and give us your accounts of that day.

    Thank you for your consideration to post,

  18. Anonymous,

    Thank you for your well thought out comments.

    We agree that it was a botched operation.
    We also agree that the true victims here are those innocent lives that were thrown away that day.

    The reality is that it was a "choice" to take those lives, not out of necessity of disease, illness or lack of placement.

    That is what is being questioned...

  19. I have read about this here and on Dr Deppe's blog of her eye witness account. Why did the ARL call Dr. Deppe to assist in this "rescue"? Why didn't the ARL step up to take more of these cats when they just spent 10 million on more space??
    This news story makes it sound like only a few have been euthanized (I still want to know why) and that the REST will be adopted through the ARL? What about the other rescues that were refused the right to save them? Talk about a fishy story...that news story gives a much different picture.

  20. Fat ones, skinny ones, little ones
    All wanted love, wanted life,
    Wanted blue skies, green fields,
    and instead received the cold metal sting of
    liquid death, sudden heart stopping purrs,
    no furry comfort, no warm loving touch --
    too much expediency,
    too much careless inconsideration of
    heart beats

    not enough compassion,
    not enough common recognition of the spark
    that stands between us all and the dark.

    too much bright glare of functionality
    not enough depth of feeling.

    if we felt enough, and cared enough,
    the fat ones, skinny ones, little ones,
    big ones, old ones, young ones
    would still be in this world.

    This Story should have had a different ending.
    It's more than time to stop pretending that there is such a thing as humane euthanization.
    Let there be a no kill nation!

    Jackie Cassada, in memory of the Story City cats who died at the hands of expediency

  21. Thank you Jackie.

    That was a beautiful tribute to those precious lives that fell victim of the monarchy who pretends to be animal welfare.

  22. I just read a post on the ARL website disputing that they were not placed in charge but only there to assist. Can you explain to me why they might be saying that?

    I guess I'm confused as to who WAS in charge then?

    It sounds like nobody really thought out how to do this....and animals died because of it.

  23. Anonymous:

    Our sources confirmed that the ARL was in fact, in charge of coordinating the rescue operations. We were told that they recruited the Vets and Volunteers and oversaw the events on that day.

    When we asked for numbers they referred us to the ARL.

    Despite several attempts to contact Tom Colvin and Josh Colvin, neither returned our telephone calls.

    Today their statement was they only "assisted".

    You'll have to decide if the Story City Police, Dr. Bright and Dr. Deppe is providing us with misinformation or if the ARL is.

  24. Penny WilliamsAugust 12, 2010

    I've just been banned from ARL's FB page for asking to adopt one of the cats they claim to have taken in from this hoarding situation. Interesting reaction if they really did take in 12 cats, as they claimed.

  25. Penny,

    I'm sorry to hear this. Unfortunately the ARL is continuing to manipulate the situation so that the truth is not revealed. You are not the only one who has been banned. They have banned anyone who questions them about anything that is friends with those who were involved in the rescue.

    We were NOT involved with the rescue operations, but apparently they are now targeting our organization and it's members as well.

    It's an insult for them to say that people are mud-slinging with personal vendetta's just because they are asking for answers.

    I can tell you that you do not stand alone...and that there is a movement now. The more they try and take control to hide the truth, the more that people will seek it out.

  26. I am glad there are wonderful groups such as RVAS who are looking out for the welfare of the animals in Iowa when it appears that so many are not. Animal Rescue is about SAVING animal lives, not making it easy for humans...

  27. I just read this on facebook. I've followed your links and hope I caught all the information that is being put out there.

    If I currently have all the facts, I have to say that I am absolutely horrified. How can this organization be in operation?

    I am searching for answers as my heart breaks that cats lives were taken when someone was standing there to save them. It makes me absolutely sick. Something HAS to be done.

    What can an individual like me do?

  28. What terribly disappoints me is that Dr. Deppe was asked to assist. She came forward and said she could take 25. I do not care that she left early before ALL the cats were caught. She should have left with 25 and 25 should have been given a second chance. Period. Not just 12, but 25. And for ARL not to intervene to see that she left with 25 to evaluate and rehome,whether that be in qualified farm homes or qualified indoor homes, that would have been HER determination as she is a qualified vet and a licensed rescue.