An 'expert witness' comments
Statement regarding 10 German Shepherd dogs in South Wales 16.7.09
We received a call on 23 June this year from a member of the public relating to 10 German Shepherd dogs at an address in Pontardawe, in south Wales. The caller said the dogs’ owner, a relative, had died and the dogs had been living on their own.
Q: How long had the dogs been living on their own and who if anyone was providing food and water and letting the dogs out to go to the toilet?
An RSPCA™ inspector visited the premises that day and assessed the animals. The inspector took the decision that none of the dogs were at all suitable for rehoming due to concerns about their aggressive behaviour and lack of socialisation with people. The dogs were also suffering from a severe skin condition.
Q: How did the inspector assess these dogs and come to the conclusion they were unsuitable for re-homing? Did he approach each dog to give a thorough examination to determine the aggressive state and skin condition of each dog or did he just view them through a window? Ten dogs locked up together and a stranger approaches their home, how do you think they are going to react. Of course there are going to be signs of aggression. These dogs were obviously scared and stressed especially if they were not being cared for. If the Inspector had concerns about the dogs skin condition then why wasn’t a vet called in to examine the dogs. Skin conditions in dogs are caused by many things including bad diet, stress, fleas, all of which are indicative of the way these dogs were living. Bearing in mind that a RSPCA™ Inspector trains for 6 months and a vet for four years, surely it was in the best interest of the dogs to call in an expert to rule out anything more sinister.
The same thing applies to Canine Behaviour. Precious little time is spent during the Inspectors training on this topic and is itself one that can take years to actually master as there are so many facets to this subject. It is therefore easy for the inexperienced person to assume that because a dog barks he is aggressive. When one dog starts the domino effect takes over and all ten dogs will react as a pack thus given the impression that all were aggressive when this could have been very far from the truth. Again, was each dog taken outside individually and his behaviour assessed or were they all simply viewed from afar and as a pack?
We explained the next-of-kin that they should contact other rescue groups for help. The next-of-kin were made fully aware that if the RSPCA™ became involved, the dogs would be euthanased.
Q: The RSPCA™ – Royal Society for the PREVENTION of CRUELTY to ANIMALS. Why was the onus on the relatives to re-home these dogs and not the RSPCA™. who’s sole purpose is purported to protecting animals at all costs. It also reads that by involving the RSPCA™ was to seal these dogs fate to a death sentence. This from an organization that is supposed to protect ALL animals. Why wasn’t the Inspector able to pick up a phone to any GSD rescue for assistance?
The owner’s next-of-kin later contacted the RSPCA™ again and said they had been turned down by other charities, including the Dogs Trust, who were unwilling to take on the animals and they signed over the dogs, fully aware of what would happen.
Q: At no time was German Shepherd Dog Rescue contacted re these dogs. If they had been then the outcome would have been totally different. Again, it is quite clear that the RSPCA™ were not prepared to do anything to help in re-homing these dogs and were quite determined to follow through on their threat to kill these poor dogs.
A decision was made following a discussion between eight RSPCA™ officers that the most humane form of euthanasia would be to use a captive bolt. This would minimise distress to the dogs, while also being the safest method for those people responsible for dealing with the animals. Restraining the dogs and then shaving a limb to prepare for a lethal injection would have caused these animals unnecessary suffering, due to the animals suffering from a severe skin condition.
Q: First of all the captive bolt is not the most humane method of euthanasia because as we all know, it does not always work first time and is used more to stun than to kill. Secondly, the dogs, who were deemed to be so aggressive even though it appears this had not been assessed properly, would have to have been restrained somehow whether it was to be examined, a limb shaved or in this case euthanized. Once again, a veterinary surgeon had not been consulted as to the dogs skin condition so it is unknown whether shaving the dogs limb would have been distressful or cause unnecessary suffering or not.
The inspector euthanased the dogs using a captive bolt. After a discussion between eight officers, this was decided to be the most humane method. It was also the most suitable as the dogs were too dangerous to approach for a vet to administer a sedative, to allow for a lethal injection.
Q: Why were eight officers in the decision making process and was the option of contacting a rescue ever placed on the table for discussion. It appears from what has already been stated in this statement that this was never going to be an alternative, the death penalty being the only answer. Once again, these dogs were never assessed for aggression yet this is the assumption being put forward all through this statement. If the RSPCA™ were so concerned for these dogs welfare, then why were they not taken away to be fully assessed by properly qualified professionals.
The dogs were taken outside into the garden of the house on a grasper, given a few moments of exercise (it is unlikely they had been outside in weeks, if not months) and then the inspector used a captive bolt.
Q: A few moments of exercise…….by that I suppose you mean the time it took to take each dog from the house to the place of its execution. Were the dogs even allowed to relieve themselves?
A grasper is not the kindest of ways to restrain any dog and so would have caused a huge amount of stress. These so called aggressive dogs that apparently could not be approached by a vet to administer a sedative even when being held in a grasper, would have to be approached by the Inspector as the captive bolt is placed against the forehead. It begs the question, if the dogs could be restrained this way to be euthanized, then why not to be examined by a vet for their skin conditions.
The house was in a remote and isolated situation, away from any other properties. Each dog was euthanased away from the rest of the dogs which were kept in the house. They would have been unable to hear the captive bolt being used as it is a very quiet method.
Q: Hearing is only one of the dogs senses. Dogs can and will smell death same as most animals. They would have known that something was about to happen adding to the stress they were obviously already under.
The dogs were only handled for a very short amount of time, on the grasper, and stress was kept to an absolute minimum. Nobody was injured and the dogs appeared to be oblivious to the fact that this was anything other than being taken into the garden.
Q: Being oblivious to anything other than being taken out into the garden does not denote to me an aggressive dog. As a qualified and experienced Canine Behaviourist and Trainer who specializes in dog aggression predominately in GSD’s, your description here does not in anyway convince me that these dogs were aggressive, in fact quite the opposite. If these dogs had been as aggressive as you state then they would have been fighting the grasper, intent on getting at whoever or getting away and yet you state they were oblivious. Obviously there is something very amiss here.
It is the RSPCA™’s raison d’être to prevent cruelty to animals, and it was decided this sad, but ultimately necessary, outcome for the dogs was the best way to prevent the animals any further suffering. The decision was not made lightly and, as always, it was made with the best interests of the animal at heart.
Q: This was by no means a necessary outcome for these dogs rather a quick, cheap and easy way out for the RSPCA™. At no point were qualified professionals involved in the decision making process and the way these dogs were euthanized was despicable.
The RSPCA™ in my opinion, no longer has the best interests of animals at heart and should have the good grace to return its Royal Patronage and leave the welfare of animals to those who actually care. If the RSPCA™ were doing their job properly, that of ‘preventing cruelty to animals’ then there would be no need for all the animal rescues that have sprung up all over the country. Rescues who do not have the benefit of millions in their coffers, who are run by dedicated volunteers prepared to meet costs out of their own pockets for the benefit of the animals they love.
This is the difference between a Rescue and the RSPCA™.
The rescue is contacted about ten GSD’s. The rescue then contacts all volunteers within the surrounding area and a team of volunteers is mobilized. The dogs are collected and homed either in foster homes or kennels where they would be looked at and treated by a vet. They would be cared for and eventually homes found for them with back up should any problems arise.
The RSPCA™ is contacted about ten GSD’s. They send an Inspector who shoots all ten.
Just about says it all.
MOC MFSTR Dip.Dog.Psy