13420 Lincoln Way s Auburn, CA 95603 s 530.823.6828                   www.AnimalPlace.com

             From the HSSF Board of Directors:

              A Clarification

Summer 2012

                 The Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills (HSSF) is a nonprofit, public benefit organization that works to protect animals from abuse and neglect. It provides a line of defense against animal cruelty at no cost to taxpayers. Governmental Animal Control Officers respond to loose or stray animals, barking dog ordinance violations, and a myriad of other animal issues, as well as neglect and abuse complaints. HSSF coordinates with public animal-services agencies to ensure no duplication of effort.

             HSSF’s Humane Officers must complete required hours of training and courses at an accredited academy and must pass psychological testing and extensive background screening from the Department of Justice and the FBI before being certified by the court. HSSF must follow all laws, which includes search and seizure protocol, hearings, and many regulations that apply specifically to humane societies. HSSF and its humane officers are fully “accountable” to the laws of the land.

             After receiving a complaint, HSSF Humane Officers will investigate. If the animals are fine, there is no problem. But if the situation warrants further attention, HSSF advises the owner of the issues and recommends options to correct the situation. Often HSSF educates animal owners who did not realize the severity of their animals’ conditions.

             Although most animal owners are appreciative and follow through with the recommendations, some may refuse to take necessary steps to either care for their animal(s) or alleviate the distress. In these cases, HSSF has the legal authority to take proper action to save the animal(s) from further suffering. Each animal complaint is handled on a case-by-case basis. There is no one-size-fits-all investigation. Generally speaking, the humane officer’s objective is to notify the owners and give ample time to correct the situation unless there are extenuating circumstances.

             When animal owners fail to take proper action to remedy the situation, or if there are repeat offenders, court orders and search warrants are obtained; animals are evaluated by veterinarians; professionals and/or specialists are hired to assist; and the neglected or abused animals may be seized with concurrence of the attending veterinarian(s).

             Depending on the specific situation, citations can be issued, and hearings are conducted to ensure that HSSF followed all laws in taking the course of action it chose. Owners are responsible for the costs of the seizure if an administrative hearing officer concurs that the seizure was appropriate. If the hearing officer does not concur, then HSSF foots the bill, and the animals are returned.

             It is important to recognize the fact that animal seizures by HSSF are taken only as a last resort. HSSF fully understands that animal owners may be upset when a veterinarian supports HSSF’s evaluation of neglect and/or abuse—HSSF does not make decisions unilaterally (although one HSSF humane officer is also a registered veterinarian technician whose education is an asset when initially evaluating an animal’s health status). Because HSSF’s mission is to prevent animal cruelty, HSSF Humane Officers cannot and will not walk away from suffering animals, nor will they be hindered by unfounded complaints that portray their work negatively, or contain only selected, incomplete facts about a particular case.

             Earlier this year, news articles quoted people who either omitted critical facts or misrepresented an unfortunate incident when a 36-year old horse named Ranger was being transferred to a sanctuary. To set the record straight: HSSF hired a veterinarian who determined that the two horses were fit for travel one week prior to transport; a very experienced and reputable transport company that is used by many veterinarians throughout the state was hired by HSSF; and proper stall accommodations were in place at the time the horses were loaded. When Ranger fell in his box stall 30 minutes into transport, the transporter opened Ranger’s stall, tried but failed to get him up, and left the stall open to give him room to stand on his own.      

             The false accusations reported bore little resemblance to what actually took place.

             Even with these best practices in place, an aged horse that many loved (including HSSF volunteers, humane officers, and board members) fell during transport. But the news articles, comments, and videos neglected to tell or show the true story: Proper steps were taken at loading time, yet other eyewitnesses were never interviewed. Besides the pre-travel veterinarian exam, a southern route with fewer canyon roads was designated to increase the comfort of the horses during transport. At the destination and after volunteers tried unsuccessfully to get Ranger to stand, a second veterinarian was called who prescribed a sedative and plans to remove Ranger were implemented. 

             The governing board of HSSF is kept fully apprised of all pending actions under investigation by its Humane Officers, was well aware of this unfortunate turn of events, and has a board member present at all court and administrative hearings. The board is dedicated to the supervision of its humane officers and the success of the organization. It stands by its policies and procedures to do whatever is best for animals including supporting veterinary recommendations for euthanasia when an animal’s condition warrants it. Due diligence is always practiced, and professionals are always hired.

             When key parts of the truth are omitted or distorted in any media outlet, an undeserved negative picture may be created.  We want to reassure all that HSSF is a dedicated nonprofit that provides a great service to the community with the highest level of professionalism. 

             Thank you again for your continued support.       

             Board of Directors for Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills